From head to toe: conservation of molecular signals regulating limb and craniofacial morphogenesis

Cell Tissue Res. 1999 Apr;296(1):103-9. doi: 10.1007/s004410051271.


Recent evidence indicates that many molecules involved in generating and patterning the limbs also play a role during craniofacial morphogenesis. On the surface, this is an unexpected finding given that these regions of the body have separate evolutionary origins, are composed of different embryonic tissues, and are quite dissimilar in their anatomy. Results from several experiments involving Sonic hedgehog and retinoic acid point to a remarkable conservation of the signaling pathways mediated by these morphogens across multiple organ systems. Moreover, mutants such as the extra-toes and doublefoot mouse, and the talpid chicken also provide insights on common developmental processes that underlie the formation of the limbs and face. The identification of highly conserved aspects of morphogenesis is important for understanding fundamental mechanisms of development, as well as for revealing the common denominator of countless birth defects and providing new strategies for their prevention and cure.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Body Patterning
  • Embryonic and Fetal Development
  • Extremities / embryology*
  • Face / embryology*
  • Limb Deformities, Congenital / physiopathology*
  • Mice
  • Morphogenesis
  • Signal Transduction
  • Skull / embryology*