, Volume 202, Issue 5, pp 375-383

Contribution of single somites to the skeleton and muscles of the occipital and cervical regions in avian embryos

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Controversy has surrounded the process of resegmentation of cervico-occipital somites. We have reinvestigated this topic by grafting single somites of quail embryos homotopically into chick embryos. Somites one to five contribute to the skull. Somites one and two contribute to the parasphenoid, which develops by direct ossification in a non-segmental fashion. All cartilaginous derivatives of the somites are segmental. Somite two forms a stripe of cells in the basioccipital, exoccipital and supraoccipital. Somites three to five give rise to the subsequent caudal parts of the basioccipital and exoccipital. Somite five forms the first motion segment including the occipital condyle, the cranial part of the atlas and the tip of the dens axis. Therefore, the border between head and neck is in the centre of somite five, and corresponds to the expression boundary of Choxb-3. Somite six forms the caudal part of the atlas and the cranial part of the axis. Somites two to eight all contribute to the cranio-cervical muscles with the exception of the Mm. rectus capitis dorsalis and ventralis and the M. biventer cervicis, which do not receive contributions from somite two. In contrast, the M. cucullaris capitis is exclusively formed by myogenic cells from somite two, which parallels its exclusive innervation by the accessory nerve. Our data confirm the segmental nature of the occiput, and show that resegmentation is a very regular process involving all except the four cranialmost somites. Except for somites one and two, all of the somites contribute to the muscles located at the appropriate levels.

Accepted: 5 July 2000