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Wiley Interdiscip Rev Dev Biol. 2012 May-Jun;1(3):435-45. doi: 10.1002/wdev.28. Epub 2012 Jan 24.

Neural crest migration: interplay between chemorepellents, chemoattractants, contact inhibition, epithelial-mesenchymal transition, and collective cell migration.

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Cell and Developmental Biology Department, University College London, London, UK.


Neural crest (NC) cells are induced at the border of the neural plate and subsequently leave the neuroepithelium during a delamination phase. This delamination involves either a complete or partial epithelium-to-mesenchyme transition, which is directly followed by an extensive cell migration. During migration, NC cells are exposed to a wide variety of signals controlling their polarity and directionality, allowing them to colonize specific areas or preventing them from invading forbidden zones. For instance, NC cells are restricted to very precise pathways by the presence of inhibitory signals at the borders of each route, such as Semaphorins, Ephrins, and Slit/Robo. Although specific NC chemoattractants have been recently identified, there is evidence that repulsive interactions between the cells, in a process called contact inhibition of locomotion, is one of the major driving forces behind directional migration. Interestingly, in cellular and molecular terms, the invasive behavior of NC is similar to the invasion of cancer cells during metastasis. NC cells eventually settle in various places and make an immense contribution to the vertebrate body. They form the major constituents of the skull, the peripheral nervous system, and the pigment cells among others, which show the remarkable diversity and importance of this embryonic-stem cell like cell population. Consequently, several birth defects and craniofacial disorders, such as Treacher Collins syndrome, are due to improper NC cell migration.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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