Unveiling the establishment of left-right asymmetry in the chick embryo

Angel Raya*, Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Vertebrates display striking left-right asymmetries in the placement of internal organs, which are concealed by a seemingly bilaterally symmetric body plan. The establishment of asymmetries about the left-right axis occurs early during embryo development and requires the concerted and sequential action of several epigenetic, genetic and cellular mechanisms. Experiments in the chick embryo model have contributed crucially to our current understanding of such mechanisms and are reviewed here. Particular emphasis is given to the elucidation of a genetic network that conveys left-right information from Hensen's node to the organ primordia, characterized to a significant degree of detail in the chick embryo. We also point out a number of early and late events in the determination of left-right asymmetries that are currently poorly understood and for whose study the chick embryo model presents several advantages. We anticipate that the availability of the chick genome sequence will be combined with multidisciplinary approaches from experimental embryology, biophysics, live-cell imaging, and mathematical modeling to boost up our knowledge of left-right organ asymmetry in the near future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1043-1054
Number of pages12
JournalMechanisms of Development
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2004
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are grateful to May-Fun Schwarz for assistance with the manuscript, Concepción Rodrı́guez-Esteban for providing embryo pictures for Figs. 1 and 3 , all the members of the laboratory for fruitful discussions, and Nature Publishing Group for permission to reproduce published material. The research on left–right asymmetry in our laboratory is supported by NIH and the G. Harold and Leila Y. Mathers Charitable Foundation.


  • Directional asymmetry
  • Experimental embryology
  • Hensen's node
  • Mathematical modeling
  • Nodal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Embryology
  • Developmental Biology


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