The formation and progression of the primitive streak are key events of avian gastrulation. We examine these processes in detail, using various morphological approaches. We show that formation of the primitive streak occurs locally at the caudal midline of the area pellucida, as cells in the caudal midline undergo an epithelial-to-mesenchymal transformation, and that extensive migration of delaminated cells arising from more rostral or peripheral areas of the blastoderm is not involved in streak formation. Instead, such delamination occurs earlier and is restricted to the process of hypoblast formation. Moreover, we provide evidence that progression of the primitive streak involves two processes: convergent-extension movements within the streak per se, and progressive delamination of midline epiblast cells in a caudal-to-rostral sequence. We have identified a subpopulation of primitive-streak cells located at its dorsal midline surface that undergoes extensive rostral displacement concomitant with streak progression. The fact that these cells are located only dorsally and do not elongate ventrally as do adjacent ingressing cells, suggests that these cells retain their residency within the primitive streak, at least until regression of the primitive streak occurs. Finally, by following labeled cells over time we establish the timing of movement of epiblast cells toward and into the primitive streak, providing direct evidence that cell-cell intercalation occurs within the primitive streak during its progression. Collectively, our results provide new insight into complex and central events of avian gastrulation.
Copyright 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.