Gradients of homeoproteins in developing feather buds

Cheng Ming Chuong, Guillermo Oliver, Sheree A. Ting, Beatrice G. Jegalian, Hai Ming Chen, Eddy M. De Robertis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

93 Scopus citations


Homeoproteins are functionally involved in pattern formation. Recently, homeoproteins have been shown to be distributed in a graded fashion in developing limb buds. Here we examine the expression of homeoproteins in chicken feather development by immunocytochemical localization. We find that XlHbox 1 antigen is present in cell nuclei and is distributed in a gradient in the mesoderm of developing feather buds, with strongest expression in the anterior-proximal region. The gradient is most obvious in feather buds from the mid-trunk level. Feather buds from the scapular level express very high levels of XlHbox 1 and feather buds from the caudal region express no XlHbox 1, suggesting that a broad gradient along the body axis is superimposed on a smaller gradient within each individual feather bud. Feather ectoderm also expresses XlHbox 1 antigen but without an obvious graded pattern. Another homeoprotein, Hox 5.2, is also expressed in developing feather buds in a graded way, and its distribution pattern is partially complementary to that of XlHbox 1. These observations suggest that homeoproteins may be involved in setting up the anteroposterior polarity of cell fields at different levels, first for the body axis, then for the limb axis and finally for the feather axis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1021-1030
Number of pages10
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1990


  • Feather
  • Homeoprotein
  • Pattern formation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology


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