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Nat Rev Neurosci. 2000 Nov;1(2):116-24.

Patterning the cranial neural crest: hindbrain segmentation and Hox gene plasticity.

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  • 1Division of Developmental Neurobiology, NIMR, The Ridgeway, Mill Hill, London, NW7 1AA, UK.


Understanding the patterning mechanisms that control head development--particularly the neural crest and its contribution to bones, nerves and connective tissue--is an important problem, as craniofacial anomalies account for one-third of all human congenital defects. Classical models for craniofacial patterning argue that the morphogenic program and Hox gene identity of the neural crest is pre-patterned, carrying positional information acquired in the hindbrain to the peripheral nervous system and the branchial arches. Recently, however, plasticity of Hox gene expression has been observed in the hindbrain and cranial neural crest of chick, mouse and zebrafish embryos. Hence, craniofacial development is not dependent on neural crest prepatterning, but is regulated by a more complex integration of cell and tissue interactions.

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