Light and electron microscopy coupled to a quantitative analysis form a powerful technique for the analysis of cell behaviour in mutant and normal tissues. Using this approach the morphology of the cells and their contacts are examined in the somites of a recessive mouse mutant, amputated, and of its normal littermates. The results of the analysis show that cell density is the same in both mutant and normal sclertome but that mutant cells tend to form small clumps whereas normal cells disperse individually. There is a correspondingly greater area of cell contact per cell in the mutant. Filopodia are equally numerous in the mutant and normal but where in the normal they stretch across wide intercellular spaces to make contact at their tips with other cells, in the mutant they form a tangled web sticking back on to the surface of the cell of origin and adjacent cells. The appearance of mutant and normal sclerotome is compared with presomitic cells and with the cells of other mutants whose abnormal development has been shown to depend on cell contact morphology and behaviour.

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