Max-Planck-Institut für Biophysikalische Chemie, Göttingen, Germany.
The development of avian embryos is characterized by the large amount of yolk present from the one-cell stage until late phases of organogenesis. In the chick, an axis of bilateral symmetry is established already before egg laying, when the egg rotates in the uterus. There is evidence for an active Wnt-catenin pathway in the vegetal cells in the periphery of the multi-cellular embryo. It overlaps with the posteriorly restricted expression of genes characterizing the vegetal hemisphere in amphibia. The zone of overlap bears several functional characteristics of a Nieuwkoop center, which is first apparent in the posterior marginal zone, but continues into the early primitive streak. Only the anterior part of the late streak is capable of direct neural induction, and only its tip, Hensen's node, can induce an anterior neural identity. This latter activity leaves the node together with the cells representing the anterior mesendoderm. Thus, although the constraints and dynamics of avian development make comparisons with the amphibian situation a complex undertaking, Hensen's node comes as close as possible to an organizer in Spemann and H. Mangold's definition.