The mechanisms underlying primitive streak formation in the chick embryo

Curr Top Dev Biol. 2008;81:135-56. doi: 10.1016/S0070-2153(07)81004-0.


Formation of the primitive streak is one of the key events in the early development of amniote embryos. The streak is the site where during gastrulation the mesendoderm cells ingress to take up their correct topographical positions in the embryo. The process of streak formation can be conveniently observed in the chick embryo, where the streak forms as an accumulation of cells in the epiblast in the posterior pole of the embryo and extends subsequently in anterior direction until it covers 80% of the epiblast. A prerequisite for streak formation is the differentiation of mesoderm, which is induced in the epiblast at the interface between the posterior Area Opaca and Area Pellucida in a sickle shaped domain overlying Koller's sickle. Current views on the molecular mechanisms of mesoderm induction by inducing signals from the Area Opaca and inhibitory signals from the hypoblast are briefly discussed. During streak formation the sickle of mesoderm cells transforms into an elongated structure in the central midline of the embryo. We discuss possible cellular mechanisms underlying this process, such as oriented cell division, cell-cell intercalation, chemotactic cell movement in response to attractive and repulsive signals and a combination of chemotaxis and contact following. We review current experimental evidence in favor and against these different hypotheses and outline some the outstanding questions. Since many of the interactions between cells signaling and moving are dynamic and nonlinear in nature they will require detailed modeling and computer simulations to be understood in detail.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Patterning / genetics
  • Cell Adhesion
  • Cell Division
  • Cell Movement
  • Chemotaxis
  • Chick Embryo / cytology
  • Chick Embryo / embryology*
  • Chick Embryo / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Models, Biological*
  • Primitive Streak / cytology
  • Primitive Streak / embryology*
  • Primitive Streak / metabolism