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Int J Dev Biol. 2009;53(4):641-8. doi: 10.1387/ijdb.072517lo.

Neural crest ontogeny during secondary neurulation: a gene expression pattern study in the chick embryo.

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UPMC Univ Paris 06, UMR 7622, Laboratoire de Biologie du Développement, Paris, France.


In the prospective lumbo-sacral region of the chick embryo, neurulation is achieved by cavitation of the medullary cord, a process called secondary neurulation. Neural crest cells (NCC) are generated in this region and they give rise to the same types of derivatives as in more rostral parts of the trunk where neurulation occurs by dorsal fusion of the neural plate borders (primary neurulation). However, no molecular data were available concerning the different steps of their ontogeny. We thus performed a detailed expression study of molecular players likely to participate in the generation of secondary NCC in chick embryos between Hamburger and Hamilton stages 18-20 (HH18-20) at the level of somites 30 to 43. We found that specification of secondary NCC involves, as in primary neurulation, the activity of several transcription factors such as Pax3, Pax7, Snail2, FoxD3 and Sox9, which are all expressed in the dorsal secondary neural tube as soon as full cavitation is achieved. Moreover, once specification has occurred, emigration of NCC from the dorsal neuroepithelium starts facing early dissociating somites and involves a series of changes in cell shape and adhesion, as well as interactions with the extracellular matrix. Furthermore, Bmp4 and Wnt1 expression precedes the detection of migratory secondary NCC and is coincident with maturation of adjacent somites. Altogether, this first study of molecular aspects of secondary NCC ontogeny has revealed that the mechanisms of neural crest generation occurring along the trunk region of the chick embryo are generally conserved and independent of the type of neurulation involved.

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