Induction and regionalisation of the chick nervous system were investigated by transplanting Hensen's node into the extra-embryonic region (area opaca margin) of a host embryo. Chick/quail chimaeras were used to determine the contributions of host and donor tissue to the supernumerary axis, and three molecular markers, Engrailed, neurofilaments (antibody 3A10) and XlHbox1/Hox3.3 were used to aid the identification of particular regions of the ectopic axis. We find that the age of the node determines the regions of the nervous system that form: young nodes (stages 2–4) induced both anterior and posterior nervous system, while older nodes (stages 5–6) have reduced inducing ability and generate only posterior nervous system. By varying the age of the host embryo, we show that the competence of the epiblast to respond to neural induction declines after stage 4. We conclude that during normal development, the initial steps of neural induction take place before stage 4 and that anteroposterior regionalisation of the nervous system may be a later process, perhaps associated with the differentiating notochord. We also speculate that the mechanisms responsible for induction of head CNS differ from those that generate the spinal cord: the trunk CNS could arise by homeogenetic induction by anterior CNS or by elongation of neural primordia that are induced very early.

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