The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 57: 821 - 828 (2013)

Vol 57, Issue 11-12

Dual embryonic origin of the hyobranchial apparatus in the Mexican axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum)

Original Article | Published: 31 January 2014

Asya Davidian1 and Yegor Malashichev*,1,2

1Department of Embryology and 2Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Faculty of Biology and Soil Sciences, Saint-Petersburg State University, St. Petersburg, Russia.


Traditionally, the cartilaginous viscerocranium of vertebrates is considered as neural crest (NC)-derived. Morphological work carried out on amphibian embryos in the first half of the XX century suggested potentially mesodermal origin for some hyobranchial elements. Since then, the embryonic sources of the hyobranchial apparatus in amphibians has not been investigated due to lack of an appropriate long-term labelling system. We performed homotopic transplantations of neural folds along with the majority of cells of the presumptive NC, and/or fragments of the head lateral plate mesoderm (LPM) from transgenic GFP+ into white embryos. In these experiments, the NC-derived GFP+ cells contributed to all hyobranchial elements, except for basibranchial 2, whereas the grafting of GFP+ head mesoderm led to a reverse labelling result. The grafting of only the most ventral part of the head LPM resulted in marking of the basibranchial 2 and the heart myocardium, implying their origin from a common mesodermal region. This is the first evidence of contribution of LPM of the head to cranial elements in any vertebrate. If compared to fish, birds, and mammals, in which all branchial skeletal elements are NC-derived, the axolotl (probably this is true for all amphibians) demonstrates an evolutionary deviation, in which the head LPM replaces NC cells in a hyobranchial element. This implies that cells of different embryonic origin may have the same developmental program, leading to the formation of identical (homologous) elements of the skeleton.


neural crest, head lateral plate mesoderm, branchial arch, viscerocranium, basibranchial 2

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