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Cell Stem Cell. 2015 Mar 5;16(3):314-22. doi: 10.1016/j.stem.2015.02.017.

Premigratory and migratory neural crest cells are multipotent in vivo.

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Institute of Anatomy, University of Zurich, 8057 Zurich, Switzerland.
Center for Microscopy and Image Analysis, University of Zurich, 8057 Zurich, Switzerland.
Department of Physiological Genomics, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, 80336 Munich, Germany.
Hubrecht Institute, KNAW and University Medical Center Utrecht, Uppsalalaan 8, 3584 CT Utrecht, The Netherlands.
Institute of Mathematics, University of Zurich, 8057 Zurich, Switzerland.
Institute of Anatomy, University of Zurich, 8057 Zurich, Switzerland. Electronic address:


The neural crest (NC) is an embryonic stem/progenitor cell population that generates a diverse array of cell lineages, including peripheral neurons, myelinating Schwann cells, and melanocytes, among others. However, there is a long-standing controversy as to whether this broad developmental perspective reflects in vivo multipotency of individual NC cells or whether the NC is comprised of a heterogeneous mixture of lineage-restricted progenitors. Here, we resolve this controversy by performing in vivo fate mapping of single trunk NC cells both at premigratory and migratory stages using the R26R-Confetti mouse model. By combining quantitative clonal analyses with definitive markers of differentiation, we demonstrate that the vast majority of individual NC cells are multipotent, with only few clones contributing to single derivatives. Intriguingly, multipotency is maintained in migratory NC cells. Thus, our findings provide definitive evidence for the in vivo multipotency of both premigratory and migrating NC cells in the mouse.

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