Previous studies have demonstrated that the neural tube/notochord complex is required for skeletal muscle development within somites. In order to explore the localization of myogenic inducing signals within the neural tube, dorsal or ventral neural tube halves were cultured in contact with single somites or pieces of segmental plate mesoderm. Somites and segmental plates cultured with the dorsal half of the neural tube exhibited 70% and 85% myogenic response rates, as determined by immunostaining for myosin heavy chain. This response was slightly lower than the 100% response to whole neural tube/notochord, but was much greater than the 30% and 10% myogenic response to ventral neural tube with and without notochord. These results demonstrate that the dorsal neural tube emits a potent myogenic inducing signal which accounts for most of the inductive activity of whole neural tube/notochord. However, a role for ventral neural tube/notochord in somite myogenic induction was clearly evident from the larger number of myogenic cells induced when both dorsal neural tube and ventral neural tube/notochord were present. To address the role of a specific dorsal neural tube factor in somite myogenic induction, we tested the ability of Wnt-1-expressing fibroblasts to promote paraxial mesoderm myogenesis in vitro. We found that cells expressing Wnt-1 induced a small number of somite and segmental plate cells to undergo myogenesis. This finding is consistent with the localized dorsal neural tube inductive activity described above, but since the ventral neural tube/notochord also possesses myogenic inductive capacity yet does not express Wnt-1, additional inductive factors are likely involved.

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