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Gene Expr. 2002;10(5-6):295-305.

Ephrin-as cooperate with EphA4 to promote trunk neural crest migration.

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  • 1Biological Sciences, University of Missouri-Columbia, 65211, USA.


Trunk neural crest cells delaminate from the dorsal neural tube and migrate on two distinct pathways: a dorsolateral route, between the ectoderm and somites,and a ventromedial route, through the somitic mesoderm. Neural crest cells that migrate ventromedially travel in a segmental manner through rostral half-somites, avoiding caudal halves. Recent studies demonstrate that various molecular cues guide the migration of neural crest cells, primarily by serving as inhibitors to premature pathway entry orby preventing neural crest from entering inappropriate territories. Trajectories of migrating trunk neural crest are well organized and generally linear in nature, suggesting that positive, migration-promoting factors may be responsible for this organized cell behavior. However, the identity of these factors and their function are not well understood. Here we examine the expression of members of the EphA subclass of receptor tyrosine kinases and ephrins using RT-PCR and immunocytochemistry. Neural crest cells express ephrins and EphA4 at distinct stages during their migration. In functional analyses, addition of ephrin-A2-, ephrin-A5-, and EphA4-Fc disrupted the segmental organization of trunk neural crest migration in explants: neural crest cells entered rostral and caudal halves of somites. Finally, to test the specific effects of these factors on cell behavior, neural crest cells were exposed in vitro to substrate-bound EphA and ephrin-As. Surprisingly, neural crest cells avoided ephrin-A2 or ephrin-A5 substrates; this avoidance was abolished by the addition of EphA4. Together, these data suggest that ephrin-As and EphA4 cooperate to positively promote the migration of neural crest cells through rostral half somites in vivo.

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