Int. J. Dev. Biol. 42: 385 - 392 (1998)
© UPV/EHU Press

Segmentation of the vertebrate hindbrain: a time-lapse analysis.

P M Kulesa and S E Fraser

Beckman Institute, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena 91125, USA.

ABSTRACT The chick hindbrain starts from a simple and relatively uniform axis and becomes segmented into repeating units, called rhombomeres. The rhombomeres become sites of cell differentiation into specific neurons and the location from which neural crest cells emerge from the neural tube to form the peripheral nervous system, which has only been analyzed at distinct time points due to the lack of a method to watch the neural tube as it is shaped into segments. We have developed a whole-embryo explant culture system in order to study cell and tissue movements with time-lapse video microscopy. Quantitative analyses of the neural tube during its segmentation show that not all rhombomeres are shaped by the same mechanism. In the rostral hindbrain, or first three segments, rhombomeres are shaped by an expansion in the lateral width of the mid-rhombomere; either a smaller expansion or a constriction takes place at the rhombomere boundaries. In the caudal hindbrain, the rhombomere boundaries constrict more than the mid-rhombomere lateral widths increase or decrease, leading to the shaping of the segments. Throughout the segmentation process the rostrocaudal lengths of all rhombomeres remain nearly constant indicating that shape changes are influenced by lateral expansions and constrictions of the neural tube.