6 Somitogenesis

Achim Gossler, Martin Hrabě de Angelis

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163 Scopus citations


This chapter discusses somitogenesis, which is a fundamental pattern-forming process that generates in all vertebrate embryos in the mesoderm a periodic pattern of homologous blocks of cells, the somites, which form bilaterally on either side of the neural tube. The majority of experimental studies were performed with avian and amphibian species, because their embryos are more readily amenable to experimental manipulations than mammalian embryos. The development of in vitro culture conditions for postimplantation mammalian embryos has allowed embryologic studies concerning somitogenesis. The possibility of specifically manipulating the mouse genome opens the way for elucidating the underlying molecular mechanisms in mammals. Paraxial mesoderm cells, the precursors of somites, are generated during gastrulation and early organogenesis. There appears to be a resident population of “stem cells” in the primitive streak and tail bud that continuously produces paraxial mesoderm, and progenitor cells, which reside in distinct regions of the node, primitive streak, and tail bud, contribute to different portions of the paraxial mesoderm along the mediolateral and anterior–posterior axes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)225-287
Number of pages63
JournalCurrent Topics in Developmental Biology
Issue numberC
StatePublished - 1 Jan 1997
Externally publishedYes


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