Summary

Cell-to-cell interactions in early limb development are considered within the framework of the extracellular signals STOP, GO, STAY and POSITION, a classification which emphasises that the signals are elective rather than instructive, and that complexity arises from cells’ response. Patterning in the limb is analysed in terms of signals that specify positional values along the anteroposterior axes, and retinoic acid is thought to be a positional morphogen. There is however, evidence for patterning which does not depend on a positional signal. In the early bud the mesenchyme gives POSITION signals to the apical ridge, which in turn provides a STAY signal to the mesenchyme in the progress zone. Non-ridge ectoderm produces a STOP signal with respect to cartilage differentiation. The pattern of cartilage differentiation is specified well before cartilage condensation. Growth factors affect both cartilage and muscle differentiation in culture. Pigment patterns result from feather germs providing STOP or GO signals to the melanoblasts which enter all feather germs. The pathways for the cell-to-cell signals are not known but may involve gap junctions.

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