The midbrain-hindbrain boundary, or isthmus, is the source of signals that are responsible for regional specification of both the midbrain and anterior hindbrain. Fibroblast growth factor 8 (Fgf8) is expressed specifically at the isthmus and there is now good evidence that it forms at least part of the patterning signal. In this study, we use Fgf8 as a marker for isthmic cells to examine how interactions between midbrain and hindbrain can regenerate isthmic tissue and, thereby, gain insight into the normal formation and/or maintenance of the isthmus. We show that Fgf8-expressing tissue with properties of the isthmic organiser is generated when midbrain and rhombomere 1 tissue are juxtaposed but not when midbrain contacts any other rhombomere. The use of chick/quail chimeras shows that the isthmic tissue is largely derived from rhombomere 1. In a few cases a small proportion of the Fgf8-positive cells were of midbrain origin but this appears to be the result of a local respecification to a hindbrain phenotype, a process mimicked by ectopic FGF8. Studies in vitro show that the induction of Fgf8 is the result of a direct planar interaction between the two tissues and involves a diffusible signal.

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