The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 48: 771 - 782 (2004)

Vol 48, Issue 8-9

Special Issue: Eye Development

A re-examination of lens induction in chicken embryos: in vitro studies of early tissue interactions

Published: 1 November 2004

Charles H. Sullivan1, Leslie Braunstein2, Royce M. Hazard-Leonards2, Anna L. Holen1, Fouad Samaha2, Laurie Stephens2 and Robert M. Grainger*,2

1Department of Biology, Grinnell College, Grinnell, IA, USA and 2Department of Biology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, USA


Early studies on lens induction suggested that the optic vesicle, the precursor of the retina, was the primary inducer of the lens; however, more recent experiments with amphibians establish an important role for earlier inductive interactions between anterior neural plate and adjacent presumptive lens ectoderm in lens formation. We report here experiments assessing key inductive interactions in chicken embryos to see if features of amphibian systems are conserved in birds. We first examined the issue of specification of head ectoderm for a lens fate. A large region of head ectoderm, in addition to the presumptive lens ectoderm, is specified for a lens fate before the time of neural tube closure, well before the optic vesicle first contacts the presumptive lens ectoderm. This positive lens response was observed in cultures grown in a wide range of culture media. We also tested whether the optic vesicle can induce lenses in recombinant cultures with ectoderm and find that, at least with the ectodermal tissues we examined, it generally cannot induce a lens response. Finally, we addressed how lens potential is suppressed in non-lens head ectoderm and show an inhibitory role for head mesenchyme. This mesenchyme is infiltrated by neural crest cells in most regions of the head. Taken together, these results suggest that, as in amphibians, the optic vesicle cannot be solely responsible for lens induction in chicken embryos; other tissue interactions must send early signals required for lens specification, while inhibitory interactions from mesenchyme suppress lens-forming ability outside of the lens area.


lens induction, chicken development, delta-crystallin, tissue interactions

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