Mentor: Dr. Margaret Hollyday
During the early stages of vertebrate development, the neural tube is surrounded by different tissues: dorsal to it is epithelium, ventral to it is the notochord and lateral to it are somites. Previous studies showed patterning of the developing chick embryo neural tube depends on signals coming from the notochord and epithelium. Since somites are adjacent structures to the neural tube, we hypothesize that somites are also a part of this signaling pathway. Therefore, our goal is to investigate whether somites are helping in the patterning of the neural tube by releasing signals.
We want to investigate whether somites are affecting cell death and/or cell proliferation. By surgically inserting a membrane between the future somites and the neural tube, signals sent by somites are blocked from reaching the neural tube due to the barrier created. In order to analyze the effects of the surgical procedure, BRDU, a thymidine analog, is used to label cell nuclei in the S-phase of the cell cycle and immunohistochemistry uses antibodies such as TUNEL to identify cells that incorporated BRDU into their nuclei. A count of pyknotic cells well as S-phase cells will help determine whether signals sent by somites are contributing to cell death or cell proliferation. Somites may also be potentially sending multiple and conflicting signals to the neural tube.