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Development. 1987 Oct;101(2):247-54.

The neural tube origin of ventral root sheath cells in the chick embryo.

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Department of Anatomy, Cambridge, UK.


The embryonic origin of peripheral nerve Schwann/sheath cells is still uncertain. Although the neural crest is known to be an important source, it is not clear whether the ventral neural tube also contributes a progenitor population for motor axons. We have used the techniques of immunohistochemistry, electron microscopy and quail-chick grafting to examine this problem. Immunohistochemistry with monoclonal antibody HNK-1 identified a cluster of immunoreactive cells in the sclerotome, at the site of the future ventral root. With the electron microscope, nucleated cells could not be seen breaching the basal lamina of the neural tube, exclusively in the region of the ventral root and preceding axon outgrowth. After grafting a length of crest-ablated quail neural tube in place of host chick neural tube, a population of quail cells was found localized to the ventral root exit zone, associated with the ventral root axons. Taken together, these observations support the possibility of a neural tube origin for ventral root sheath cells, although we found no evidence for a more extensive migration of these cells. The ventral root cells share certain phenotypic traits, such as HNK-1 immunoreactivity, with neural-crest-derived Schwann cells, but are not necessarily identical to them. We argue that while they may help motor axons to exit the neural tube at the correct position, they are unlikely to guide axons beyond the immediate vicinity of the neural tube.

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