The avian prechordal head region: a morphological study

J Anat. 1993 Aug;183 ( Pt 1)(Pt 1):75-89.


The axial mesoderm of the anterior head region was investigated in young chick and quail embryos by light and electron microscopy. Semithin sections showed that the axial head mesoderm consists of the head process and prechordal mesoderm. At the anterior end of the prechordal mesoderm, a group of columnar epithelial cells formed a pit-like structure. The bases of these columnar cells extended to the neural plate, thus limiting the prechordal mesoderm anteriorly. The cells lining the pit-like structure at its anterior end joined a cell accumulation made up of cells of mesenchymal character. Electron microscopy revealed that the columnar cells forming the pit-like structure were covered by a basal lamina which was discontinuous on its anterior aspect. No basal lamina was recognisable between the columnar epithelial cells and mesenchymal cells joining them anteriorly. The columnar epithelial cells bordering the prechordal mesoderm anteriorly were therefore assumed to be part of the endodermal germ layer. In agreement with the findings of other authors, it is proposed to term these axially located columnar cells of the endoderm the prechordal plate and to distinguish them from the prechordal mesoderm arising during gastrulation. For the mesenchymal cell accumulation anterior to the prechordal plate, participation in the formation of the prosencephalic mesenchyme is assumed. This implies that the definitive endodermal germ layer, like the ectodermal one represented by the neural crest, may also be able to contribute to mesenchyme formation in the head.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chick Embryo / ultrastructure*
  • Coturnix / anatomy & histology
  • Coturnix / embryology*
  • Endoderm / ultrastructure
  • Head / embryology*
  • Mesoderm / ultrastructure*
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Notochord / ultrastructure