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Development. 2011 Feb;138(4):641-52. doi: 10.1242/dev.054718. Epub 2011 Jan 12.

Neural crest stem cell multipotency requires Foxd3 to maintain neural potential and repress mesenchymal fates.

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Center for Stem Cell Biology, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, TN 37232-0494, USA.


Neural crest (NC) progenitors generate a wide array of cell types, yet molecules controlling NC multipotency and self-renewal and factors mediating cell-intrinsic distinctions between multipotent versus fate-restricted progenitors are poorly understood. Our earlier work demonstrated that Foxd3 is required for maintenance of NC progenitors in the embryo. Here, we show that Foxd3 mediates a fate restriction choice for multipotent NC progenitors with loss of Foxd3 biasing NC toward a mesenchymal fate. Neural derivatives of NC were lost in Foxd3 mutant mouse embryos, whereas abnormally fated NC-derived vascular smooth muscle cells were ectopically located in the aorta. Cranial NC defects were associated with precocious differentiation towards osteoblast and chondrocyte cell fates, and individual mutant NC from different anteroposterior regions underwent fate changes, losing neural and increasing myofibroblast potential. Our results demonstrate that neural potential can be separated from NC multipotency by the action of a single gene, and establish novel parallels between NC and other progenitor populations that depend on this functionally conserved stem cell protein to regulate self-renewal and multipotency.

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