In vertebrates, tendons connect muscles to skeletal elements. Surgical experiments in the chick have underlined developmental interactions between tendons and muscles. Initial formation of tendons occurs autonomously with respect to muscle. However, further tendon development requires the presence of muscle. The molecular signals involved in these interactions remain unknown. In the chick limb, Fgf4 transcripts are located at the extremities of muscles, where the future tendons will attach. In this paper, we analyse the putative role of muscle-Fgf4 on tendon development. We have used three general tendon markers, scleraxis, tenascin, and Fgf8 to analyse the regulation of these tendon-associated molecules by Fgf4 under different experimental conditions. In the absence of Fgf4, in muscleless and aneural limbs, the expression of the three tendon-associated molecules, scleraxis, tenascin, and Fgf8, is down-regulated. Exogenous implantation of Fgf4 in normal, aneural, and muscleless limbs induces scleraxis and tenascin expression but not that of Fgf8. These results indicate that Fgf4 expressed in muscle is required for the maintenance of scleraxis and tenascin but not Fgf8 expression in tendons.
2002 Elsevier Science (USA).