The mosaicism in aortic endothelium of mouse aggregation chimaeras is demonstrated using the lectin Dolichos biflorus agglutinin as a strain-specific marker. The general fragmentary appearance and considerable size range of patches suggests that endothelial cells do not proliferate in a highly coherent manner. The developmental significance of the observed patterns is investigated by means of a quantitative statistical analysis — the Greig-Smith analysis of variance. This method examines the spatial distribution of patches and is able to detect and characterize pattern at various scales. The results show that (1) patches are non-randomly distributed at all scales examined and (2) ‘clusters of clusters’ occur at one small and one large scale, defining territories of ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ descendent clones, which arose respectively during early and late periods in the development of the endothelium. We conclude from this analysis that (1) cell mixing is never complete, even in the early embryo and (2) cell mingling is not uniform during development. A different pattern was previously demonstrated for intestinal epithelium (Schmidt, Wilkinson & Ponder, 1985c) indicating the potential value of the method for quantitative comparison of mosaicism between tissues and also different developmental stages. Our results suggest that the analysis of patch sizes is likely to be less informative in terms of developmental mechanisms, than the analysis of the spatial arrangement of patches.

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