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J Vis Exp. 2012 Jun 2;(64):e4134. doi: 10.3791/4134.

Isolation and culture of neural crest cells from embryonic murine neural tube.

Author information

1
Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, Center for Stem Cell Biology, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, USA.

Abstract

The embryonic neural crest (NC) is a multipotent progenitor population that originates at the dorsal aspect of the neural tube, undergoes an epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) and migrates throughout the embryo, giving rise to diverse cell types. NC also has the unique ability to influence the differentiation and maturation of target organs. When explanted in vitro, NC progenitors undergo self-renewal, migrate and differentiate into a variety of tissue types including neurons, glia, smooth muscle cells, cartilage and bone. NC multipotency was first described from explants of the avian neural tube. In vitro isolation of NC cells facilitates the study of NC dynamics including proliferation, migration, and multipotency. Further work in the avian and rat systems demonstrated that explanted NC cells retain their NC potential when transplanted back into the embryo. Because these inherent cellular properties are preserved in explanted NC progenitors, the neural tube explant assay provides an attractive option for studying the NC in vitro. To attain a better understanding of the mammalian NC, many methods have been employed to isolate NC populations. NC-derived progenitors can be cultured from post-migratory locations in both the embryo and adult to study the dynamics of post-migratory NC progenitors, however isolation of NC progenitors as they emigrate from the neural tube provides optimal preservation of NC cell potential and migratory properties. Some protocols employ fluorescence activated cell sorting (FACS) to isolate a NC population enriched for particular progenitors. However, when starting with early stage embryos, cell numbers adequate for analyses are difficult to obtain with FACS, complicating the isolation of early NC populations from individual embryos. Here, we describe an approach that does not rely on FACS and results in an approximately 96% pure NC population based on a Wnt1-Cre activated lineage reporter. The method presented here is adapted from protocols optimized for the culture of rat NC. The advantages of this protocol compared to previous methods are that 1) the cells are not grown on a feeder layer, 2) FACS is not required to obtain a relatively pure NC population, 3) premigratory NC cells are isolated and 4) results are easily quantified. Furthermore, this protocol can be used for isolation of NC from any mutant mouse model, facilitating the study of NC characteristics with different genetic manipulations. The limitation of this approach is that the NC is removed from the context of the embryo, which is known to influence the survival, migration and differentiation of the NC.

PMID:
22688801
PMCID:
PMC3471284
DOI:
10.3791/4134
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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