Differential cytokeratin gene expression reveals early dorsal-ventral regionalization in chick mesoderm

T. S. Charlebois, J. J. Henry, R. M. Grainger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The induction and spatial patterning of early mesoderm are known to be critical events in the establishment of the vertebrate body plan. However, it has been difficult to define precisely the steps by which mesoderm is initially subdivided into functionally discrete regions. Here we present evidence for a sharply defined distinction between presumptive dorsal and presumptive ventral regions in early chick mesoderm. Northern blot and in situ hybridization analyses reveal that transcripts corresponding to CKse1, a cytokeratin gene expressed during early development, are present at high levels in the presumptive ventral mesoderm, but are greatly reduced or undetectable in the future dorsal region of mesoderm, where the formation of axial structures occurs later in development. This distinction is present even while the mesoderm layer is being formed, and persists during the extensive cellular movements and tissue remodelling associated with morphogenesis. These results point to an early step in which two fundamentally distinct states are established along the presumptive dorsal-ventral axis in the mesoderm, and suggest that determination in this germ layer occurs in a hierarchical manner, rather than by direct specification of individual types of histological differentiation. The differential expression of CKse1 represents the earliest molecular index of dorsoventral regionalization detected thus far in the mesoderm.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)417-425
Number of pages9
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1990
Externally publishedYes


  • chick embryo
  • cytokeratin gene expression
  • mesoderm regionalization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology


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