4D Live Imaging and Analysis of Chick Embryo Somites

Gi Fay Mok, James McColl, Andrea Münsterberg
Methods in Molecular Biology 2021, 2179: 173-181
Avian (chick) embryos are an established and accessible model organism making them ideal for studying developmental processes. Chick embryos can be harvested from the egg and cultured allowing real-time observations and imaging. Here, we describe ex vivo culture and preparation of somite tissue followed by time-lapse multi-photon microscopy, image capture and processing. We applied this approach to perform live imaging of somites, the paired segments in vertebrate embryos that form in a regular sequence on either side of the neural tube, posteriorly from presomitic mesoderm (psm). Somites give rise to cell lineages of the musculoskeletal system in the trunk such as skeletal muscle, cartilage and tendon, as well as endothelial cells. Until recently it was not possible to observe the cellular dynamics underlying morphological transitions in live tissue, including in somites which undergo epithelial-to-mesenchymal transitions (EMT) during their differentiation. In addition to the experimental setup, we describe the analytical tools used for image processing.

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