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Development. 1998 Aug;125(15):2963-71.

Neural crest emigration from the neural tube depends on regulated cadherin expression.

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Department of Biophysics, Faculty of Science, Kyoto University, Kitashirakawa, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606-8502, Japan.


During the emergence of neural crest cells from the neural tube, the expression of cadherins dynamically changes. In the chicken embryo, the early neural tube expresses two cadherins, N-cadherin and cadherin-6B (cad6B), in the dorsal-most region where neural crest cells are generated. The expression of these two cadherins is, however, downregulated in the neural crest cells migrating from the neural tube; they instead begin expressing cadherin-7 (cad7). As an attempt to investigate the role of these changes in cadherin expression, we overexpressed various cadherin constructs, including N-cadherin, cad7, and a dominant negative N-cadherin (cN390 ), in neural crest-generating cells. This was achieved by injecting adenoviral expression vectors encoding these molecules into the lumen of the closing neural tube of chicken embryos at stage 14. In neural tubes injected with the viruses, efficient infection was observed at the neural crest-forming area, resulting in the ectopic cadherin expression also in migrating neural crest cells. Notably, the distribution of neural crest cells with the ectopic cadherins changed depending on which constructs were expressed. Many crest cells failed to escape from the neural tube when N-cadherin or cad7 was overexpressed. Moreover, none of the cells with these ectopic cadherins migrated along the dorsolateral (melanocyte) pathway. When these samples were stained for Mitf, an early melanocyte marker, positive cells were found accumulated within the neural tube, suggesting that the failure of their migration was not due to differentiation defects. In contrast to these phenomena, cells expressing non-functional cadherins exhibited a normal migration pattern. Thus, the overexpression of a neuroepithelial cadherin (N-cadherin) and a crest cadherin (cad7) resulted in the same blocking effect on neural crest segregation from neuroepithelial cells, especially for melanocyte precursors. These findings suggest that the regulation of cadherin expression or its activity at the neural crest-forming area plays a critical role in neural crest emigration from the neural tube.

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