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To begin to reconcile models of floor plate formation in the vertebrate neural tube, we have performed experiments aimed at understanding the development of the early floor plate in the chick embryo. Using real-time analyses of cell behaviour, we provide evidence that the principal contributor to the early neural midline, the future anterior floor plate, exists as a separate population of floor plate precursor cells in the epiblast of the gastrula stage embryo, and does not share a lineage with axial mesoderm. Analysis of the tissue interactions associated with differentiation of these cells to a floor plate fate reveals a role for the nascent prechordal mesoderm, indicating that more than one inductive event is associated with floor plate formation along the length of the neuraxis. We show that Nr1, a chick nodal homologue, is expressed in the nascent prechordal mesoderm and we provide evidence that Nodal signalling can cooperate with Shh to induce the epiblast precursors to a floor-plate fate. These results indicate that a shared lineage with axial mesoderm cells is not a pre-requisite for floor plate differentiation and suggest parallels between the development of the floor plate in amniote and anamniote embryos.


  • Movies available online

  • * Present address: Departament de Genetica, Facultat de Biologia, Universitat de Barcelona, Avenida Diagonal 645, Barcelona 08028, Spain

  • Present address: Stowers Institute for Medical Research, 1000 East 50th Street, Kansas City, MO 64110, USA

    • Accepted June 19, 2003.
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