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Dev Biol. 2000 Feb 1;218(1):13-20.

A critical period for conversion of ectodermal cells to a neural crest fate.

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  • 1Division of Biology, 139-74, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, 91125, USA.


Previously, we found that interactions between neural and nonneural ectoderm can generate neural crest cells, with both the ectodermal and the neuroepithelial cells contributing to induced population (M. A. J. Selleck and M. Bronner-Fraser, 1995, Development 121, 525-538). To further characterize the ability of ectodermal cells to form neural crest, we have challenged their normal fate by transplanting them into the neural tube. To ensure that the ectoderm was from nonneural regions, we utilized extraembryonic ectoderm (the proamnion) and transplanted it into the presumptive midbrain of 1. 5-day-old chick embryos. We observed that the grafted ectoderm has the capacity to adopt a neural crest fate, responding within a few hours of surgery by turning on neural crest markers HNK-1 and Slug. However, the competence of the ectoderm to respond to neural crest-inducing signals is time limited, declining rapidly in donors older than the 10-somite stage. Similarly, the inductive capacity of the host midbrain declines in a time-dependent fashion. Our results show that extraembryonic ectoderm has the capacity to form neural crest cells given proper inducing signals, expressing both morphological and molecular markers characteristic of neural crest cells.

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