Hoxd13, Tbx2, Tbx3, Sall1 and Sall3 genes are candidates for encoding antero-posterior positional values in the developing chick wing and specifying digit identity. In order to build up a detailed profile of gene expression patterns in cell lineages that give rise to each of the digits over time, we compared 3 dimensional (3D) expression patterns of these genes during wing development and related them to digit fate maps. 3D gene expression data at stages 21, 24 and 27 spanning early bud to digital plate formation, captured from in situ hybridisation whole mounts using Optical Projection Tomography (OPT) were mapped to reference wing bud models. Grafts of wing bud tissue from GFP chicken embryos were used to fate map regions of the wing bud giving rise to each digit; 3D images of the grafts were captured using OPT and mapped on to the same models. Computational analysis of the combined computerised data revealed that Tbx2 and Tbx3 are expressed in digit 3 and 4 progenitors at all stages, consistent with encod ng stable antero-posterior positional values established in the early bud; Hoxd13 and Sall1 expression is more dynamic, being associated with posterior digit 3 and 4 progenitors in the early bud but later becoming associated with anterior digit 2 progenitors in the digital plate. Sox9 expression in digit condensations lies within domains of digit progenitors defined by fate mapping; digit 3 condensations express Hoxd13 and Sall1, digit 4 condensations Hoxd13, Tbx3 and to a lesser extent Tbx2. Sall3 is only transiently expressed in digit 3 progenitors at stage 24 together with Sall1 and Hoxd13; then becomes excluded from the digital plate. These dynamic patterns of expression suggest that these genes may play different roles in digit identity either together or in combination at different stages including the digit condensation stage.
Fisher, M., Downie, H., Welten, M. C. M., Delgado, I., Bain, A., Planzer, T., ... Tickle, C. (2011). Comparative analysis of 3D expression patterns of transcription factor genes and digit fate maps in the developing chick wing. PLoS ONE, 6(4), [e18661]. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0018661