In the E4 (embryonic day 4) chick tectal primordium, engrailed expression is strong at the caudal end and gradually weakens toward the rostral end. We used quail-chick chimeric tecta to investigate how the caudorostral gradient of engrailed expression is established and whether it is correlated with the subsequent rostrocaudal polarity of tectal development. To examine the positional value of the tectal primordium, we produced ectopic tecta in the diencephalon by transplanting a part of the mesencephalic alar plate heterotopically. In the ectopic tectum, the gradient of the engrailed expression reversed and the strength of the expression was dependent on the distance from the mes-diencephalon junction; the nearer the ectopic tectum was to the junction, the weaker the expression was. Consequently, the pattern of the engrailed expression in the host and ectopic tecta was nearly a mirror image, suggesting the existence of a repressive influence around the mes-diencephalon junction on the engrailed expression. We examined cytoarchitectonic development in the ectopic tecta, which normally proceeds in a gradient along the rostrocaudal axis; the rostral shows more advanced lamination than the caudal. In contrast, the caudal part of the ectopic tecta (near to the mes-diencephalon junction) showed more advanced lamination than the rostral. In both the host and ectopic tecta, advanced lamination was observed where the engrailed expression was repressed, and vice versa. Next we studied the correlation between engrailed expression and retinotectal projection from a view of plasticity and rigidity of rostrocaudal polarity in the tectum. We produced ectopic tecta by anisochronal transplantations between E3 host and E2 donor, and showed that there is little repressive influence at E3 around the mes-diencephalon junction. We then made chimeric double-rostral tectum (caudal half of it was replaced by rostral half of the donor tectum) or double-caudal tectum at E3. The transplants kept their original staining pattern in hosts. Consequently, the chimeric tecta showed wholly negative or positive staining of engrailed protein on the grafted side. In such tecta retinotectal projection pattern was disturbed as if the transplants retained their original position-specific characters. We propose from these heterotopic and anisochronal experiments that the engrailed expression can be a marker for subsequent rostrocaudal polarity in the tectum, both as regards cytoarchitectonic development and retinotectal projection.

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