Sonic hedgehog (SHH) specifies muscle pattern at tissue and cellular chick level, in the chick limb bud

Mech Dev. 1999 Apr;82(1-2):151-63. doi: 10.1016/s0925-4773(99)00040-4.


Development of the musculature in chick limbs involves tissue and cellular patterning. Patterning at the tissue level leads to the precise arrangement of specific muscles; at the cellular level patterning gives rise to the fibre type diversity in muscles. Although the data suggests that the information controlling muscle patterning is localised within the limb mesenchyme and not in the somitic myogenic precursor cells themselves, the mechanisms underlying muscle organisation have still to be elucidated. The anterior-posterior axis of the limb is specified by a group of cells in the posterior region of the limb mesenchyme, called the zone of polarizing activity (ZPA). When polarizing-region cells are grafted to the anterior margin of the bud, they cause mirror-image digit duplications to be produced. The effect of ZPA grafts can be reproduced by application of retinoic acid (RA) beads and by grafting sonic hedgehog (SHH)-expressing cells to the anterior margin of the limb. Although most previous studies have looked at changes of the skeletal patterning, ZPA and RA also affect muscle patterning. In this report, we investigated the role of SHH in tissue and cellular patterning of forearm wing muscles. Ectopic application of a localised source of SHH to the anterior margin of the wing, leading to complete digit duplication, is able to transform anterior forearm muscles into muscles with a posterior identity. Moreover, the ectopic source of SHH induces a mirror image duplication of the normal posterior muscles fibre types in the new posterior muscles. The reorganisation of the slow fibres can be detected before muscle mass cleavage has started; suggesting that the appropriate fibre type arrangement is in place before the splitting process can be observed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Patterning
  • Chick Embryo
  • Extremities / embryology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Hedgehog Proteins
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Muscle Fibers, Slow-Twitch / metabolism
  • Muscle, Skeletal / embryology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Muscle, Skeletal / transplantation
  • MyoD Protein / genetics
  • Proteins / genetics
  • Proteins / physiology*
  • Trans-Activators*
  • Wings, Animal / embryology


  • Hedgehog Proteins
  • MyoD Protein
  • Proteins
  • Trans-Activators