Despite over 60 years of study, the molecular pathways and mechanisms governing limb outgrowth and patterning remain poorly understood. Fgfs expressed in the AER are known to be necessary and sufficient for proximodistal limb outgrowth and have been proposed to have a chemoattractive role. Wnt5a is a secreted factor which is expressed in a gradient in the distal limb with the highest concentration next to the AER. The presence of the AER is necessary to establish this gradient. Expression of Wnt5a in a concentration dependant manner can be induced in the limb through the implantation of a bead soaked in recombinant Fgf4 protein. This indicates that Fgfs from the AER may establish the gradient of Wnt5a in the limb mesenchyme. Wnt5a-/- mutants exhibit severe shortening of the face, limbs, and body axis, with limbs being progressively truncated proximally to distally. In normal limb proximodistal outgrowth, cells are seen to grow directionally toward the AER. Previous studies done in the Barrow lab, as well as those done by myself, have shown that if a portion of the AER is removed and the cells proximal to this area are labeled, those which are close enough to intact AER will redirect their growth toward this intact AER. When Wnt5a secreting cells are implanted in the limb mesenchyme of the chick this ectopic source of Wnt5a is sufficient to redirect the growth of the mesenchyme cells toward the Wnt5a source. This indicates that the AER may mediate directed growth of limb mesenchyme cells through the establishment of the Wnt5a gradient which provides positional information to the cells. This Wnt5a gradient results in the recruitment of the mesenchyme cells toward the AER. The Ror2 receptor has been found to be involved in several different pathways involving Wnt5a which are involved in changes in polarity and migration. This makes Ror2 a likely candidate for causing changes in cell polarity and migration during distal outgrowth in the limb. To test whether Ror2 is necessary for the polarizing response of limb mesenchyme cells to the Wnt5a gradient in vivo I co-transfected a dominant-negative Ror2 (Ror2ΔC) and a GFP expression vector in the embryonic chick limb using sonoporation. Limb mesenchyme cells transfected with dominant-negative Ror2 grew as radial clones in contrast to the directional outgrowth of the control limb mesenchyme cells along the proximodistal axis. This indicates that cells expressing the dominant-negative Ror2 could no longer respond to the Wnt5a gradient in the limb mesenchyme. This supports a role for Ror2 as a receptor or co-receptor for Wnt5a in mediating directional growth and movement during proximodistal outgrowth and patterning in the limb.



College and Department

Life Sciences; Physiology and Developmental Biology



Date Submitted


Document Type





AER, Fgf, Wnt5a gradient, Ror2, DiI, sonoporation, directional outgrowth, limb mesenchyme, chicken