Somitogenesis in amphibian embryos. I. Experimental evidence for an interaction between two temporal factors in the specification of somite pattern

J Embryol Exp Morphol. 1979 Jun;51:27-50.


Somitogenesis is described in two species of anuran amphibians, Xenopus laevis and Rana temporaria, in which the cellular mechanics of somite formation are distinctly different. Heat shocks are employed to demonstrate a wave of cellular change which precedes somite formation down the body axis. This prior wave is shown to be kinematic. It is not a propagated wave. It is a consequence of the temporal activities of the cells laid out in space, but there is no evidence that these activities depend upon an interpretation of their position. Heat shocks cause characteristic segmental abnormalities over a zone of somites which is formed several hours after the shock. Evidence from double heat shock experiments suggests that the pattern of abnormality is the result of (i) a disturbance of co-ordination between pre-somitic cells, and (ii) the time available to those cells for recovery before they are recruited into a segmental pre-pattern at the time of passage of the prior wave. It is a temporal co-ordination that is disturbed and subsequently recovered following a heat shock. This temporal co-ordination of pre-somitic cells does not depend upon position along the axis. The evidence for two physiologically independent temporal patterns of cellular processes, which interact to specify the segmental pattern of somites (their size, shape and number), gives experimental support for the theoretical account of somitogenesis proposed by Cooke & Zeeman (1976).

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anura
  • Hot Temperature
  • Larva / ultrastructure
  • Mesoderm / physiology*
  • Mesoderm / ultrastructure
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Morphogenesis
  • Rana temporaria / embryology*
  • Time Factors
  • Xenopus / embryology*