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Adv Exp Med Biol. 2006;589:1-23.

Neural crest cells and the community of plan for craniofacial development: historical debates and current perspectives.

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Department of Biomedical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, USA.


After their initial discovery in the mid 1800s, neural crest cells transitioned from the category of renegade intra-embryonic wanderers to achieve rebel status, provoked especially by the outrageous claim that they participate in skeletogenesis, an embryonic event theretofore reserved exclusively for mesoderm. Much of the 20th century found neural crest cells increasingly viewed as a unique population set apart from other embryonic populations and more often treated as orphans rather than fully embraced by mainstream developmental biology. Now frequently touted as a fourth germ layer, the neural crest has become a fundamental character for distinguishing craniates from other metazoans, and has radically redefined perceptions about the organization and evolution of the vertebrate jaws and head. In this chapter we provide an historical overview of four main research areas in which the neural crest have incited fervent discord among workers past and present. Specifically, we describe how discussions surrounding the neural crest threatened the germ layer theory, upended traditional schemes of vertebrate head organization, challenged assumptions about morphological conservation and homology, and redefined concepts on mechanisms of craniofacial patterning. In each case we frame these debates in the context of recent data on the developmental fate and roles of the neural crest.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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