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Science. 2004 Feb 13;303(5660):1020-3. Epub 2004 Jan 8.

Instructive role of Wnt/beta-catenin in sensory fate specification in neural crest stem cells.

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Institute of Cell Biology, Department of Biology, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, ETH-Hönggerberg, CH-8093 Zurich, Switzerland.


Wnt signaling has recently emerged as a key factor in controlling stem cell expansion. In contrast, we show here that Wnt/beta-catenin signal activation in emigrating neural crest stem cells (NCSCs) has little effect on the population size and instead regulates fate decisions. Sustained beta-catenin activity in neural crest cells promotes the formation of sensory neural cells in vivo at the expense of virtually all other neural crest derivatives. Moreover, Wnt1 is able to instruct early NCSCs (eNCSCs) to adopt a sensory neuronal fate in a beta-catenin-dependent manner. Thus, the role of Wnt/beta-catenin in stem cells is cell-type dependent.

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