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Dev Biol. 1991 Nov;148(1):95-106.

In vitro clonal analysis of quail cardiac neural crest development.

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  • 1Department of Cellular Biology and Anatomy, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee 53226.


The developmental potentials of cardiac neural crest cells were investigated by in vitro clonal analysis. Five morphologically distinct types of clones were observed: (1) "pigmented" clones contained melanocytes only; (2) "mixed" clones consisted of pigmented and unpigmented cells; (3) "unpigmented dense" clones consisted of flattened, closely aligned unpigmented cells; (4) "unpigmented loose" clones consisted of a few loosely arranged, flattened cells; and (5) "unpigmented large" clones included a large number of small, stellate cells that were highly proliferative. The binding patterns of antibodies against lineage-specific markers showed that cells in the different clones expressed characteristic phenotypes. The following phenotypes were expressed in addition to pigment cells: smooth muscle cells, connective tissue cells, chondrocytes, and cells in the sensory neuron lineage. Mixed clones expressed all five phenotypes. Unpigmented dense clones contained smooth muscle cells, connective tissue cells, chondrocytes, and sensory neurons. Unpigmented loose clones exclusively consisted of smooth muscle cells, whereas unpigmented large clones contained chondrocytes and sensory neuron precursors. Based on these results, the following conclusions can be drawn: (1) Pigmented and unpigmented loose clones are most likely formed by precursors that are committed to the melanogenic and myogenic cell lineages, respectively. (2) Mixed and unpigmented dense clones are derived from pluripotent cells with the capacity to give rise to four or five phenotypes. (3) Unpigmented large clones originate from progenitor cells that appear to have a partially restricted developmental potential, that is, these cells are capable of generating two phenotypes in clonal cultures. Thus, the data indicate that the early migratory cardiac neural crest is a heterogeneous population of cells, consisting of pluripotent cells, cells with a partially restricted developmental potential, and cells committed to a particular cell lineage.

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