In vertebrate embryos, motor axons originating from a particular craniocaudal position in the neural tube innervate limb muscles derived from myoblasts of the same segmental level. We have investigated whether this relationship is important for the formation of specific nerve-muscle connections, by altering the segmental origin of muscles and examining their resulting innervation. First, by grafting quail wing somites to a new craniocaudal position opposite the chick wing, we established that the segmental origin of a muscle can be altered: presumptive muscle cells migrated according to their new, rather than their original, somitic level, colonizing a different subset of muscles. However, after reversal of a length of brachial somitic mesoderm along the craniocaudal axis, or exchange or shift of brachial somites, the craniocaudal position of wing muscle motoneurone pools within the spinal cord was undisturbed, despite the new segmental origin of the muscles themselves. While not excluding the possibility that muscles and their motor nerves are labelled segmentally, we conclude that specific motor axon guidance in the wing does not depend upon the existence of such labels.

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