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WIREs Dev Biol
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Developmental mechanisms of intervertebral disc and vertebral column formation

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The vertebral column consists of repeating units of ossified vertebrae that are adjoined by fibrocartilagenous intervertebral discs. These structures form from the embryonic notochord and somitic mesoderm. In humans, congenital malformations of the vertebral column include scoliosis, kyphosis, spina bifida, and Klippel Feil syndrome. In adulthood, a common malady affecting the vertebral column includes disc degeneration and associated back pain. Indeed, recent reports estimate that low back pain is the number one cause of disability worldwide. Our review provides an overview of the molecular mechanisms underlying vertebral column morphogenesis and intervertebral disc development and maintenance, with an emphasis on what has been gleaned from recent genetic studies in mice. The aim of this review is to provide a developmental framework through which vertebral column formation can be understood so that ultimately, research scientists and clinicians alike can restore disc health with appropriately designed gene and cell‐based therapies. WIREs Dev Biol 2017, 6:e283. doi: 10.1002/wdev.283 This article is categorized under: Gene Expression and Transcriptional Hierarchies > Regulatory Mechanisms Nervous System Development > Vertebrates: Regional Development
Histology of the vertebral column. IVD, intervertebral disc; VB, vertebral body. Frontal crosssections from a P0 (newborn) mouse. Stained with Alcian blue and Picrosirius red to show collagen and glycosaminoglycans, respectively. Left, 2.5×; Right, 10×.
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Linage relationship between embryonic structures (notochord and somite) and the mature intervertebral disc. Fate mapping studies have demonstrated that the nucleus pulposus is derived from the notochord. Experiments in both mouse and chick have shown that the sclerotome gives rise to at least part of the annulus fibrosus. However, it is not clear if sub‐compartments of the sclerotome (e.g., the syndetome) may specify different regions of the annulus fibrosus and/or if tissues outside the somite may produce some parts of this tissue. AF, annulus fibrosus, CE, cartilaginous end plates; De, dermomyotome, My, myotome, NC, notochord, NP, nucleus pulposus, Sc, sclerotome, Sy, syndetome.
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Gene Expression and Transcriptional Hierarchies > Regulatory Mechanisms
Nervous System Development > Vertebrates: Regional Development