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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Commitment of chondrogenic precursors of the avian scapula takes place after epithelial-mesenchymal transition of the dermomyotome

Baigang Wang12*, Qin Pu3, Raja De2, Ketan Patel4, Bodo Christ2, Jörg Wilting1 and Ruijin Huang23*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, University of Goettingen, Kreuzbergring 36, 37075 Goettingen, Germany

2 Institute of Anatomy and Cell Biology, University of Freiburg, Albertstrasse 17, 79104 Freiburg, Germany

3 Institute of Anatomy, University of Bonn, Nussallee 10, 53115 Bonn, Germany

4 School of Biological Sciences, University of Reading, Hopkins building, Whiteknights, Reading, RG6 6UB, Berkshire UK

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BMC Developmental Biology 2010, 10:91  doi:10.1186/1471-213X-10-91

Published: 31 August 2010



Cells of the epithelially organised dermomyotome are traditionally believed to give rise to skeletal muscle and dermis. We have previously shown that the dermomyotome can undergo epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and give rise to chondrogenic cells, which go on to form the scapula blade in birds. At present we have little understanding regarding the issue of when the chondrogenic fate of dermomyotomal cells is determined. Using quail-chick grafting experiments, we investigated whether scapula precursor cells are committed to a chondrogenic fate while in an epithelial state or whether commitment is established after EMT.


We show that the hypaxial dermomyotome, which normally forms the scapula, does not generate cartilaginous tissue after it is grafted to the epaxial domain. In contrast engraftment of the epaxial dermomyotome to the hypaxial domain gives rise to scapula-like cartilage. However, the hypaxial sub-ectodermal mesenchyme (SEM), which originates from the hypaxial dermomyotome after EMT, generates cartilaginous elements in the epaxial domain, whereas in reciprocal grafting experiments, the epaxial SEM cannot form cartilage in the hypaxial domain.


We suggest that the epithelial cells of the dermomyotome are not committed to the chondrogenic lineage. Commitment to this lineage occurs after it has undergone EMT to form the sub-ectodermal mesenchyme.