Early stages of chick somite development

Anat Embryol (Berl). 1995 May;191(5):381-96. doi: 10.1007/BF00304424.


We report on the formation and early differentiation of the somites in the avian embryo. The somites are derived from the avian embryo. The somites are derived from the mesoderm which, in the body (excluding the head), is subdivided into four compartments: the axial, paraxial, intermediate and lateral plate mesoderm. Somites develop from the paraxial mesoderm and constitute the segmental pattern of the body. They are formed in pairs by epithelialization, first at the cranial end of the paraxial mesoderm, proceeding caudally, while new mesenchyme cells enter the paraxial mesoderm as a consequence of gastrulation. After their formation, which depends upon cell-cell and cell-matrix interactions, the somites impose segmental pattern upon peripheral nerves and vascular primordia. The newly formed somite consists of an epithelial ball of columnar cells enveloping mesenchymal cells within a central cavity, the somitocoel. Each somite is surrounded by extracellular matrix material connecting the somite with adjacent structures. The competence to form skeletal muscle is a unique property of the somites and becomes realized during compartmentalization, under control of signals emanating from surrounding tissues. Compartmentalization is accompanied by altered patterns of expression of Pax genes within the somite. These are believed to be involved in the specification of somite cell lineages. Somites are also regionally specified, giving rise to particular skeletal structures at different axial levels. This axial specification appears to be reflected in Hox gene expression. MyoD is first expressed in the dorsomedial quadrant of the still epithelial somite whose cells are not yet definitely committed. During early maturation, the ventral wall of the somite undergoes an epithelio-mesenchymal transition forming the sclerotome. The sclerotome later becomes subdivided into rostral and caudal halves which are separated laterally by von Ebner's fissure. The lateral part of the caudal half of the sclerotome mainly forms the ribs, neural arches and pedicles of vertebrae, whereas within the lateral part of the rostral half the spinal nerve develops. The medially migrating sclerotomal cells form the peri-notochordal sheath, and later give rise to the vertebral bodies and intervertebral discs. The somitocoel cells also contribute to the sclerotome. The dorsal half of the somite remains epithelial and is referred to as the dermomyotome because it gives rise to the dermis of the back and the skeletal musculature. the cells located within the lateral half of the dermomyotome are the precursors of the muscles of the hypaxial domain of the body, whereas those in the medial half are precursors of the epaxial (back) muscles.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Chick Embryo / cytology
  • Chick Embryo / growth & development*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Mesoderm / cytology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / cytology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / embryology*
  • Spine / embryology*