International Journal of Molecular Sciences (Jul 2021)

The Mandibular and Hyoid Arches—From Molecular Patterning to Shaping Bone and Cartilage

  • Jaroslav Fabik,
  • Viktorie Psutkova,
  • Ondrej Machon

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 22, no. 14
p. 7529


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The mandibular and hyoid arches collectively make up the facial skeleton, also known as the viscerocranium. Although all three germ layers come together to assemble the pharyngeal arches, the majority of tissue within viscerocranial skeletal components differentiates from the neural crest. Since nearly one third of all birth defects in humans affect the craniofacial region, it is important to understand how signalling pathways and transcription factors govern the embryogenesis and skeletogenesis of the viscerocranium. This review focuses on mouse and zebrafish models of craniofacial development. We highlight gene regulatory networks directing the patterning and osteochondrogenesis of the mandibular and hyoid arches that are actually conserved among all gnathostomes. The first part of this review describes the anatomy and development of mandibular and hyoid arches in both species. The second part analyses cell signalling and transcription factors that ensure the specificity of individual structures along the anatomical axes. The third part discusses the genes and molecules that control the formation of bone and cartilage within mandibular and hyoid arches and how dysregulation of molecular signalling influences the development of skeletal components of the viscerocranium. In conclusion, we notice that mandibular malformations in humans and mice often co-occur with hyoid malformations and pinpoint the similar molecular machinery controlling the development of mandibular and hyoid arches.