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Dev Dyn. 2012 May;241(5):842-51. doi: 10.1002/dvdy.23767. Epub 2012 Mar 23.

Immunophenotypic characterization of enteric neural crest cells in the developing avian colorectum.

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Department of Pediatric Surgery, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.



The enteric nervous system (ENS) develops from neural crest-derived cells that migrate along the intestine to form two plexuses of neurons and glia. While the major features of ENS development are conserved across species, minor differences exist, especially in the colorectum. Given the embryologic and disease-related importance of the distal ENS, the aim of this study was to characterize the migration and differentiation of enteric neural crest-derived cells (ENCCs) in the colorectum of avian embryos.


Using normal chick embryos and vagal neural tube transplants from green fluorescent protein (GFP) -transgenic chick embryos, we find ENCCs entering the colon at embryonic day (E) 6.5, with colonization complete by E8. Undifferentiated ENCCs at the wavefront express HNK-1, N-cadherin, Sox10, p75, and L1CAM. By E7, differentiation begins in the proximal colon, with L1CAM and Sox10 becoming restricted to neuronal and glial lineages, respectively. By E8, multiple markers of differentiation are expressed along the entire colorectum.


Our results establish the pattern of ENCC migration and differentiation in the chick colorectum, demonstrate the conservation of marker expression across species, highlight a range of markers, including neuronal cell adhesion molecules, which label cells at the wavefront, and provide a framework for future studies in avian ENS development.

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