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J Anat. 2004 Aug;205(2):79-98.

Ventrally emigrating neural tube (VENT) cells: a second neural tube-derived cell population.

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  • 1Department of Oral Biology, Medical College of Georgia, USA.


Two embryological fates for cells of the neural tube are well established. Cells from the dorsal part of the developing neural tube emigrate and become neural crest cells, which in turn contribute to the development of the peripheral nervous system and a variety of non-neural structures. Other neural tube cells form the neurons and glial cells of the central nervous system (CNS). This has led to the neural crest being treated as the sole neural tube-derived emigrating cell population, with the remaining neural tube cells assumed to be restricted to forming the CNS. However, this restriction has not been tested fully. Our investigations of chick, quail and duck embryos utilizing a variety of different labelling techniques (DiI, LacZ, GFP and quail chimera) demonstrate the existence of a second neural tube-derived emigrating cell population. These cells originate from the ventral part of the cranial neural tube, emigrate at the exit/entry site of the cranial nerves, migrate in association with the nerves and populate their target tissues. On the basis of its site of origin and route of migration we have named this cell population the ventrally emigrating neural tube (VENT) cells. VENT cells also differ from neural crest cells in that they emigrate considerably after the emigration of neural crest cells, and lack expression of the neural crest cell antigen HNK-1. VENT cells are multipotent, differentiating into cell types belonging to all four basic tissues in the body: the nerve, muscle, connective and epithelium. Thus, the neural tube provides at least two cell populations--neural crest and VENT cells--that contribute to the development of the peripheral nervous system and various non-neural structures. This review describes the origin of the idea of VENT cells, and discusses evidence for their existence and subsequent fates.

Copyright 2004 Anatomical Society of Great Britain and Ireland

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