Distinct spatiotemporal roles of hedgehog signalling during chick and mouse cranial base and axial skeleton development

B. Balczerski, S. Zakaria, A. S. Tucker, A. G. Borycki, E. Koyama, M. Pacifici, P. Francis-West

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


The cranial base exerts a supportive role for the brain and includes the occipital, sphenoid and ethmoid bones that arise from cartilaginous precursors in the early embryo. As the occipital bone and the posterior part of the sphenoid are mesoderm derivatives that arise in close proximity to the notochord and floor plate, it has been assumed that their development, like the axial skeleton, is dependent on Sonic hedgehog (Shh) and modulation of bone morphogenetic protein (Bmp) signalling. Here we examined the development of the cranial base in chick and mouse embryos to compare the molecular signals that are required for chondrogenic induction in the trunk and head. We found that Shh signalling is required but the molecular network controlling cranial base development is distinct from that in the trunk. In the absence of Shh, the presumptive cranial base did nor undergo chondrogenic commitment as determined by the loss of Sox9 expression and there was a decrease in cell survival. In contrast, induction of the otic capsule occurred normally demonstrating that induction of the cranial base is uncoupled from formation of the sensory capsules. Lastly, we found that the early cranial mesoderm is refractory to Shh signalling, likely accounting for why development of the cranial base occurs after the axial skeleton. Our data reveal that cranial and axial skeletal induction is controlled by conserved, yet spatiotemporally distinct mechanisms that co-ordinate development of the cranial base with that of the cranial musculature and the pharyngeal arches. (c) 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)203-214
Number of pages12
JournalDevelopmental Biology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2012


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