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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1996 Apr 30;93(9):3892-7.

Endothelin 3 promotes neural crest cell proliferation and mediates a vast increase in melanocyte number in culture.

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  • 1Institut d'Embryologie Cellulaire et Mol├ęculaire du Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Nogent-sur-Marne, France.


Mutations in the endothelin 3 (EDN3) gene severely affect the development of neural crest-derived melanocytes. In this paper, we report the action of EDN3 on neural crest cells in vitro. The presence of EDN3 leads to a large increase in the number of cells, the majority of which eventually differentiate into melanocytes that aggregate to form a reproducible pigmentation pattern. Quantitative analysis of the effect of different culture conditions revealed that EDN3 initially promotes neural crest cell proliferation. This phase of expansion, which can be prolonged for a few weeks if the cells are replaced regularly, is followed by both a decrease in cell proliferation and the onset of melanocytic differentiation. Therefore, EDN3 is a potent mitogen for early neural crest cell precursors that can give rise to melanocytes.

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