The posterior five pairs of avian ribs are composed of vertebral and sternal components, both derived from the somitic mesoderm. For the patterning of the rib cartilage, inductive signals from neighboring tissues on the somitic mesoderm have been suggested to play critical roles. The notochord and surface ectoderm overlying the somitic mesoderm are essentially required for the development of proximal and distal regions of the ribs, respectively. Involvement of the somatopleure in rib development has already been suggested but is less understood than those of the notochord and surface ectoderm. In this study, we reinvestigated the role of the somatopleure during rib development. We first identified the chicken homologue of the mouse Mesenchymal forkhead-1 (cMfh-1) gene based on sequence similarities. cMfh-1 was observed to be expressed in the nonaxial mesoderm, including the somitic mesoderm, and, subsequently, in cartilage forming the ribs, vertebrae, and appendicular skeletal system. In the interlimb region, corresponding to somites 21-25 (or 26), cMfh-1-positive somitic mesoderm was seen penetrating the somatopleure of E4 embryos, and cMfh-1 was used as a molecular marker demarcating prospective rib cartilage. A series of experiments affecting the penetration of the somitic mesoderm into the somatopleure was performed in the present study, resulting in defects in sternal rib formation. The inductive signals emanating from the somatopleure mediated by BMP family proteins were observed to be essentially involved in the ingrowth of the somitic mesoderm. BMP4 alone, however, could not completely replace inductive signals from the somatopleure, suggesting the involvement of additional signals for rib formation.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.