Dynamics of skeletal pattern formation in developing chick limb

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Science  17 Aug 1979:
Vol. 205, Issue 4407, pp. 662-668
DOI: 10.1126/science.462174

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During development of the embryonic chick limb the skeletal pattern is laid out as cartilaginous primordia, which emerge in a proximodistal sequence over a period of 4 days. The differentiation of cartilage is preceded by changes in cellular contacts at specific locations in the precartilage mesenchyme. Under realistic assumptions, the biosynthesis and diffusion through the extracellular matrix of a cell surface protein, such as fibronectin, will lead to spatial patterns of this molecule that could be the basis of the emergent primordia. As cellular differentiation proceeds, the size of the mesenchymal diffusion chamber is reduced in descrete steps, leading to sequential reorganizations of the morphogen pattern. The successive patterns correspond to observed rows of skeletal elements, whose emergence, in theory and in practice, depends on the maintenance of a unique boundary condition at the limb bud apex.