Global feather orientations changed by electric current

Ting Xin Jiang, Ang Li, Chih Min Lin, Cathleen Chiu, Jung Hwa Cho, Brian Reid, Min Zhao, Robert H. Chow, Randall Bruce Widelitz, Cheng Ming Chuong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


During chicken skin development, each feather bud exhibits its own polarity, but a population of buds organizes with a collective global orientation. We used embryonic dorsal skin, with buds aligned parallel to the rostral-caudal body axis, to explore whether exogenous electric fields affect feather polarity. Interestingly, brief exogenous current exposure prior to visible bud formation later altered bud orientations. Applying electric pulses perpendicular to the body rostral-caudal axis realigned bud growth in a collective swirl, resembling an electric field pointing toward the anode. Perturbed buds show normal molecular expression and morphogenesis except for their altered orientation. Epithelial-mesenchymal recombination demonstrates the effects of exogenous electric fields are mediated through the epithelium. Small-molecule channel inhibitor screens show Ca2+ channels and PI3 Kinase are involved in controlling feather bud polarity. This work reveals the importance of bioelectricity in organ development and regeneration and provides an explant culture platform for experimentation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102671
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 25 2021


  • biological sciences
  • cell biology
  • developmental biology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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