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Development. 1996 Oct;122(10):3229-42.

Rhombencephalic neural crest segmentation is preserved throughout craniofacial ontogeny.

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  • 1MRC Brain Development Programme, Department of Developmental Neurobiology, UMDS, Guy's Hospital, London, UK.


To investigate the influence of hindbrain segmentation on craniofacial patterning we have studied the long term fate of neural crest (NC) subpopulations of individual rhombomeres (r), using quail-chick chimeras. Mapping of all skeletal and muscle connective tissues developing from these small regions revealed several novel features of the cranial neural crest. First, the mandibular arch skeleton has a composite origin in which the proximal elements are r1+r2 derived, whereas more distal ones are exclusively midbrain derived. The most proximal region of the lower jaw is derived from second arch (r4) NC. Second, both the lower jaw and tongue skeleton display an organisation which precisely reflects the rostrocaudal order of segmental crest deployment from the embryonic hindbrain. Third, cryptic intraskeletal boundaries, which do not correspond to anatomical landmarks, form sharply defined interfaces between r1+r2, r4 and r6+r7 crest. Cells that survive the early apoptotic elimination of premigratory NC in r3 and r5 are restricted to tiny contributions within the 2nd arch (r4) skeleton. Fourth, a highly constrained pattern of cranial skeletomuscular connectivity was found that precisely respects the positional origin of its constitutive crest: each rhombomeric population remains coherent throughout ontogeny, forming both the connective tissues of specific muscles and their respective attachment sites onto the neuro- and viscerocranium. Finally, focal clusters of crest cells, confined to the attachment sites of branchial muscles, intrude into the otherwise mesodermal cranial base. In the viscerocranium, an equally strict, rhombomere-specific matching of muscle connective tissues and their attachment sites is found for all branchial and tongue (hypoglossal) muscles. This coherence of segmental crest populations explains how cranial skeletomuscular pattern can be implemented and conserved despite evolutionary changes in the shapes of skeletal elements.

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