Unveiling the Establishment of Left-Right Asymmetry in the Chick Embryo

Mech Dev. 2004 Sep;121(9):1043-54. doi: 10.1016/j.mod.2004.05.005.


Vertebrates display striking left-right asymmetries in the placement of internal organs, which are concealed by a seemingly bilaterally symmetric body plan. The establishment of asymmetries about the left-right axis occurs early during embryo development and requires the concerted and sequential action of several epigenetic, genetic and cellular mechanisms. Experiments in the chick embryo model have contributed crucially to our current understanding of such mechanisms and are reviewed here. Particular emphasis is given to the elucidation of a genetic network that conveys left-right information from Hensen's node to the organ primordia, characterized to a significant degree of detail in the chick embryo. We also point out a number of early and late events in the determination of left-right asymmetries that are currently poorly understood and for whose study the chick embryo model presents several advantages. We anticipate that the availability of the chick genome sequence will be combined with multidisciplinary approaches from experimental embryology, biophysics, live-cell imaging, and mathematical modeling to boost up our knowledge of left-right organ asymmetry in the near future.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Patterning / physiology*
  • Chick Embryo
  • Epigenesis, Genetic / physiology
  • Hedgehog Proteins
  • Trans-Activators / physiology


  • Hedgehog Proteins
  • Trans-Activators