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Dev Biol. 2004 Feb 15;266(2):252-69.

Combined intrinsic and extrinsic influences pattern cranial neural crest migration and pharyngeal arch morphogenesis in axolotl.

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  • 1Department of Anatomy, TU Dresden, Dresden 01307, Germany.


Cranial neural crest cells migrate in a precisely segmented manner to form cranial ganglia, facial skeleton and other derivatives. Here, we investigate the mechanisms underlying this patterning in the axolotl embryo using a combination of tissue culture, molecular markers, scanning electron microscopy and vital dye analysis. In vitro experiments reveal an intrinsic component to segmental migration; neural crest cells from the hindbrain segregate into distinct streams even in the absence of neighboring tissue. In vivo, separation between neural crest streams is further reinforced by tight juxtapositions that arise during early migration between epidermis and neural tube, mesoderm and endoderm. The neural crest streams are dense and compact, with the cells migrating under the epidermis and outside the paraxial and branchial arch mesoderm with which they do not mix. After entering the branchial arches, neural crest cells conduct an "outside-in" movement, which subsequently brings them medially around the arch core such that they gradually ensheath the arch mesoderm in a manner that has been hypothesized but not proven in zebrafish. This study, which represents the most comprehensive analysis of cranial neural crest migratory pathways in any vertebrate, suggests a dual process for patterning the cranial neural crest. Together with an intrinsic tendency to form separate streams, neural crest cells are further constrained into channels by close tissue apposition and sorting out from neighboring tissues.

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