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Dev Dyn. 2004 Jan;229(1):109-17.

Identification of neural crest competence territory: role of Wnt signaling.

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Millennium Nucleus in Developmental Biology, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Chile, Casilla 653, Santiago, Chile.


In recent years, research on neural crest induction has allowed the identification of several molecules as candidates for neural crest inducers. Although many of these molecules have the ability to induce neural crest in different assays, a general mechanism of neural crest induction that includes a description of the tissues that produce the inductive signals and the time and steps in which this process takes place remains elusive. To better understand the mechanism of neural crest induction, we developed an assay that has been used previously by Nieuwkoop to study anterior-posterior pattern of the neural plate. Folds of competent ectoderm were implanted in different positions of a young neurula embryo, and the induction of neural crest was analyzed using the expression of the neural crest marker Xslug. We identified a very localized region of the early neurula where it is possible to get neural crest induction, whereas all of the regions tested showed a clear induction of the neural plate marker Xsox2. These results indicate that there is a region in the embryo with the appropriate combination of signals needed to induce neural crest cells; we called this region the neural crest competence territory. In addition, our results show that neural crest induction is always accompanied by neural plate induction, but there are many cases where neural plate was induced without neural crest. These results support the model in which the neural crest is induced by an interaction between neural plate and epidermis, but they also suggest that additional signals are required. By making grafts of different sizes and implanting them in the epidermis or the neural plate, we concluded that one of the inductive signals is produced in the dorsal region of the embryo and travels into the ectoderm. Finally, by performing gain- and loss-of-function of Wnt signaling experiments, we show that this pathway plays an important role not only in neural crest induction but also in the specification of the neural crest competence territory. Developmental Dynamics 229:109-117, 2004.

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