Supplementary Material for: On the Enigma of the Human Neurenteric Canal

Existence and biomedical relevance of the neurenteric canal, a transient midline structure during early neurulation in the human embryo, have been controversially discussed for more than a century by embryologists and clinicians alike. In this study, the authors address the long-standing enigma by high-resolution histology and three-dimensional reconstruction using new and historic histological sections of 5 human 17- to 21-day-old embryos and of 2 marmoset monkey embryos of the species Callithrix jacchus at corresponding stages. The neurenteric canal presents itself as the classical vertical connection between the amniotic cavity and the yolk sac cavity and is lined (a) craniolaterally by a horseshoe-shaped “hinge of involuting notochordal cells” within Hensen’s node and (b) caudally by the receding primitive streak epiblast dorsally and by notochordal plate epithelium ventrally, the latter of which covered the (longitudinal) notochordal canal on its ventral side at the preceding stage. Furthermore, asymmetric parachordal nodal expression in Callithrix and morphological asymmetries within the nodes of the other specimens suggest an early non-cilium-dependent left-right symmetry breaking mode previously postulated for other mammals. We conclude that structure and position of the mammalian neurenteric canal support the notion of its homology with the reptilian blastopore as a whole and with a dorsal segment of the blastopore in amphibia. These new features of the neurenteric canal may further clarify the aetiology of foetal malformations such as junctional neurulation defects, neuroendodermal cysts, and the split notochord syndrome.