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Development. 2003 Oct;130(19):4567-79.

Dissimilar regulation of cell differentiation in mesencephalic (cranial) and sacral (trunk) neural crest cells in vitro.

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  • 1Department of Genetics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


During development neural crest cells give rise to a wide variety of specialized cell types in response to cytokines from surrounding tissues. Depending on the cranial-caudal level of their origin, different populations of neural crest cells exhibit differential competence to respond to these signals as exemplified by the unique ability of cranial neural crest to form skeletal cell types. We show that in addition to differences in whether they respond to particular signals, cranial neural crest cells differ dramatically from the trunk neural crest cells in how they respond to specific extracellular signals, such that under identical conditions the same signal induces dissimilar cell fate decisions in the two populations in vitro. Conversely, the same differentiated cell types are induced by different signals in the two populations. These in vitro differences in neural crest response are consistent with in vivo manipulations. We also provide evidence that these differences in responsiveness are modulated, at least in part, by differential expression of Hox genes within the neural crest.

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