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Dev Biol. 2003 Jan 15;253(2):258-63.

Neural crest origin of mammalian Merkel cells.

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Department of Cell Biology, Neurobiology and Anatomy, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI 53226, USA.


Here, we provide evidence for the neural crest origin of mammalian Merkel cells. Together with nerve terminals, Merkel cells form slowly adapting cutaneous mechanoreceptors that transduce steady indentation in hairy and glabrous skin. We have determined the ontogenetic origin of Merkel cells in Wnt1-cre/R26R compound transgenic mice, in which neural crest cells are marked indelibly. Merkel cells in whiskers and interfollicular locations express the transgene, beta-galactosidase, identifying them as neural crest descendants. We thus conclude that murine Merkel cells originate from the neural crest.

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