The formation of membrane bone from neural crest-derived mesenchyme of the maxillary and mandibular processes of the embryonic chick depends upon prior interactions between the mesenchyme and maxillary or mandibular epithelia. The present study explores the specificity of these interactions using tissue recombinations between heterotypic epithelia and mesenchyme. Mandibular and maxillary mesenchyme responded to maxillary and mandibular epithelia by forming bone. A third osteogenically inductive epithelium, the scleral epithelium with its specialized scleral papillae, also allowed mandibular mesenchyme to form bone, indicating that mesenchyme can form bone in response to osteogenic epithelia other than its own. Epithelia which normally do not induce membrane bone formation in situ (wing and leg bud, back and abdominal epithelia) also allowed mandibular epithelia to ossify as did mandibular epithelia from the 10-day-old foetal mouse. Thus this tissue interaction is neither site nor species specific.

Mandibular epithelium allowed bone to form in osteogenic mesenchyme from the maxilla and the sclera of the chick and from the mouse mandible but would not induce bone formation from normally non-osteogenic mesenchyme of the limb buds, chorioallantoic membrane or trunk neural crest.

The results obtained with all of the tissue recombinations were consistent with the epithelial- mesenchyme interactions that initiate osteogenesis in both the mandibular and the maxillary processes being permissive interactions. The distinction between permissive and instructive interactions is discussed.

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