The marginal zone of the chick embryo has been shown to play an important role in the formation of the hypoblast and of the primitive streak. In this study, time-lapse filming, fate mapping, ablation and transplantation experiments were combined to study its contribution to these structures. It was found that the deep (endodermal) portion of the posterior marginal zone contributes to the hypoblast and to the junctional endoblast, while the epiblast portion of the same region contributes to the epiblast of the primitive streak and to the definitive (gut) endoderm derived from it. Within the deep part of the posterior marginal zone, a subpopulation of HNK-1-positive cells contributes to the hypoblast. Removal of the deep part of the marginal zone prevents regeneration of the hypoblast but not the formation of a primitive streak. Removal of both layers of the marginal zone leads to a primitive streak of abnormal morphology but mesendodermal cells nevertheless differentiate. These results show that the two main properties of the posterior marginal zone (contributing to the hypoblast and controlling the site of primitive streak formation) are separable, and reside in different germ layers. This conclusion does not support the idea that the influence of the posterior marginal zone on the development of axial structures is due to it being the source of secondary hypoblast cells.

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