Int. J. Dev. Biol. 44: 757 - 768 (2000)
© UPV/EHU Press

Temporospatial patterns of apoptosis in chick embryos during the morphogenetic period of development.

M Hirata and B K Hall

Department of Biology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

ABSTRACT We examined the temporospatial pattern of naturally occurring apoptosis in chick embryos to five days of incubation (H.H. stages 1-25; Hamburger and Hamilton, 1951) using TUNEL labeling. The initial TUNEL-positive structure was the embryonic shield at stage 1. Apoptotic cells became ubiquitously present within embryos by stage 3, which is early in gastrulation. Until stage 6, TUNEL-positive cells were restricted to the headfold region. In embryos of stages 7-8, most cell death was localized at the most anterior neural plate. TUNEL-positive neural plate, notochord and somites appeared at stage 9. Otic and optic regions became TUNEL-positive at stage 11. The aggregation of cells from which the tail bud arises contains apoptotic cells from stage 11 onwards. At stage 16, scattered TUNEL-positive cells appeared in the branchial arches. Three streams of apoptotic neural crest cells in the cranial region became most clearly visible at stage 18. The secondary neural tube from which caudal structures develop contains apoptotic cells at stage 14. Apoptotic cells are present in the branchial arches and lateral body wall for extended periods, stages 16-25 and 25 respectively. At stages 24-25, intense positive regions of cell death were confined to the caudal regions of the arches, to limb and tail buds and to the lateral body wall, the latter in relation to body wall closure. The new findings in this study are discussed along with past studies to provide the temporospatial pattern of cell death during early chick development.