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Dev Biol. 1993 Jun;157(2):517-25.

In vitro clonal analysis of mouse neural crest development.

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Department of Cellular Biology and Anatomy, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee 53226.


Analysis of lineage segregation during mammalian neural crest development has not been sufficiently performed due to technical difficulties. In the present study, therefore, we established a clonal culture system of mouse neural crest cells in order to analyze developmental potentials of individual neural crest cells and their patterns of lineage segregation. 12-O-Tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate (TPA) and cholera toxin (CT) were applied to culture medium to trigger melanogenic differentiation of mouse neural crest cells. Three morphologically distinct types of clones were observed. (1) "Pigmented clones" consisted of melanocytes only, suggesting that the clone-forming cells were committed to the melanogenic lineage. These clones were observed only in the presence of TPA and CT. The proportion of this type of clone (8%) was much lower than that of the equivalent type of clone in quail trunk neural crest (40-60%; Sieber-Blum and Cohen, 1980, Dev. Biol. 80, 96-106). It therefore appears that the segregation pattern to the melanogenic lineage during mouse neural crest development in vitro differs quantitatively from that in the quail. (2) "Mixed clones" consisted of pigmented and unpigmented cells. Like pigmented clones, they were observed only in the presence of TPA and CT. The clones contained up to four types of cells: melanocytes, S100-positive cells (Schwann cells or melanogenic precursor cells), serotonin (5-HT)-positive autonomic neuron-like cells, and substance P (SP)-immunoreactive sensory neuron-like cells. Thus, at least some mixed clone-forming cells are pluripotent. (3) Two classes of "unpigmented clones" were observed that consisted of unpigmented cells only. These clones developed in the presence and absence of TPA and CT. Unpigmented clones in one class contained up to three types of cells as well as other, as yet unidentified cells: S100-, 5-HT-, and SP-positive cells. This observation suggests that at least some of these clones originate from cells with a partially restricted developmental potential. Clones in another class consisted of S100- or SP-positive cells only. These clones might be derived from cells restricted to the SP-positive neuronal cell or melanocyte/Schwann cell lineage. The present data indicate that at initiation of migration, the mouse neural crest of the trunk region is a heterogeneous population of cells containing pluripotent cells, cells with a restricted developmental potential, and cells apparently committed to the melanogenic cell lineage.

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