Migration of Schwann cells and axons into developing chick forelimb muscles following removal of either the neural tube or the neural crest

J Comp Neurol. 1988 Nov 8;277(2):214-33. doi: 10.1002/cne.902770205.


A study has been made of the effects of neural crest and neural tube removal at the brachial level on the migration of Schwann cells and axons into the flexor digitorum profundus (fdp) and flexor carpi ulnaris (fcu) muscles of the avian forelimb. The identification of Schwann cells was based on the assumption that antibody HNK-1 uniquely labels these cells at the growing end of limb nerves. Myotubes and nerves were identified by using antibodies to myosin and to neurofilament protein, respectively. The removal of neural crest cells at stage 13 gave a complete Schwann cell-free embryo at the brachial level. Motor axons only grew to the base of the forelimb, forming a rudimentary plexus by stage 27, and failed to penetrate the limb. Removal of the neural tube at stage 13 did not prevent sensory axons from forming a plexus at the base of the limb; these axons subsequently developed into the brachialis longus inferior (bli n) and superior (bls n) nerves. By stage 27 the bli n had branched into the interosseus nerve (in n) and the medial-ulnar nerve (m-u n) trunks. However, unlike the result in control embryos, no nerves were detected amongst the developing fdp and fcu muscles, thus indicating that sensory axons do not grow into the muscles in the absence of motor axons. In contrast, Schwann cells were observed amongst the myotubes at the level of the in n and m-u nerve trunks. The present observations show that motor axons do not enter the limb bud and innervate limb muscles in the absence of Schwann cells. Furthermore, in the absence of motor axons (neural-tube-removed embryos) sensory axons still enter the limb (behind migrating Schwann cells) but fail to innervate developing muscles even though Schwann cells are present among the developing myotubes.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Axons / physiology*
  • Axons / ultrastructure
  • Chick Embryo
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Intermediate Filaments / ultrastructure
  • Muscles / embryology
  • Muscles / innervation*
  • Myosin Subfragments
  • Myosins / analysis
  • Nervous System / embryology*
  • Nervous System Physiological Phenomena
  • Neural Crest / physiology*
  • Peptide Fragments / analysis
  • Schwann Cells / cytology
  • Schwann Cells / physiology*
  • Wings, Animal / innervation


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Myosin Subfragments
  • Peptide Fragments
  • Myosins