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Genome Res. 2014 Feb;24(2):281-90. doi: 10.1101/gr.161182.113. Epub 2014 Jan 3.

Transcriptome analysis reveals novel players in the cranial neural crest gene regulatory network.

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Division of Biology, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California 91125, USA;


The neural crest is an embryonic stem cell population that gives rise to a multitude of derivatives. In particular, the cranial neural crest (CNC) is unique in its ability to contribute to both facial skeleton and peripheral ganglia. To gain further insight into the molecular underpinnings that distinguish the CNC from other embryonic tissues, we have utilized a CNC-specific enhancer as a tool to isolate a pure, region-specific NC subpopulation for transcriptional profiling. The resulting data set reveals previously unknown transcription factors and signaling pathways that may influence the CNC's ability to migrate and/or differentiate into unique derivatives. To elaborate on the CNC gene regulatory network, we evaluated the effects of knocking down known neural plate border genes and early neural crest specifier genes on selected neural crest-enriched transcripts. The results suggest that ETS1 and SOX9 may act as pan-neural crest regulators of the migratory CNC. Taken together, our analysis provides unprecedented characterization of the migratory CNC transcriptome and identifies new links in the gene regulatory network responsible for development of this critical cell population.

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