It has been suggested that positional information along the proximo-distal axis of the limb-bud is specified by time spent in the progress zone. Mesenchyme cells have been killed by X-irradiation, reducing the rate cells leave the zone. The time spent there by some cells is thus increased. When limbs, stage 18/19, stage 21, or tips of stage 24, are treated with increasing doses of X-irradiation, from 1000 rads to 2500 rads proximal structures are progressively lost, whereas distal ones— the digits—are relatively unaffected. There was no evidence for intercalation of missing parts. These effects are due to killing or damage of mesenchyme cells: the ectoderm is not affected at these doses. The results are consistent with a quantitative analysis based on the progress zone model, in which viable cells repopulate the progress zone and gradually restore it to normal as non-dividing cells are diluted out. It is suggested that any treatment causing damage to the mesenchyme at early stages will give similar results.

The mesenchyme cells appear to be surprisingly resistant to radiation damage. The form of the limb-bud is not altered by damaging the mesenchyme. Differences in the development of structures at similar proximo-distal levels, following irradiation, is considered in terms of the requirement of a threshold number of cells.

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