Outgrowth of normal chick limb bud mesoderm is dependent on the presence of a specialized epithelium called the apical ectodermal ridge. This ectodermal ridge is induced by the mesoderm at about the time of limb bud formation. The limbless mutation in the chick affects apical ectodermal ridge formation in the limb buds of homozygotes. The initial formation of the limb bud appears to be unaffected by the mutation but no ridge develops and further outgrowth, which is normally dependent on the ridge, does not take place. As a result, limbless chicks develop without limbs. In the present study, which utilized a pre-limb-bud recombinant technique, limbless mesoderm induced an apical ectodermal ridge in grafted normal flank ectoderm. However, at stages when normal flank ectoderm is capable of responding to ridge induction, limbless flank ectoderm did not form a ridge or promote outgrowth of a limb in response to normal presumptive wing bud mesoderm. We conclude from this that the limbless mutation affects the ability of the ectoderm to form a ridge. In addition, because the limbless ectoderm has no morphological ridge and no apparent ridge activity (i.e. it does not stabilize limb elements in stage-18 limb bud mesoderm), the limbless mutant demonstrates that the initial formation of the limb bud is independent of apical ectodermal ridge activity.

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