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Dev Biol. 1998 Nov 15;203(2):295-304.

Early migrating neural crest cells can form ventral neural tube derivatives when challenged by transplantation.

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Division of Biology, California Institute of Technology 139-74, Pasadena, California, 91125, USA.


Once neural crest cells undergo an epithelial-mesenchymal transition to leave the neural tube, it has been classically assumed that they are fated to differentiate within the neural crest lineage. To test this idea, we challenged the developmental potential of recently emigrated neural crest cells by transplanting them into the ventral portion of the neural tube at the open neural plate stage. Newly migrating neural crest cells were isolated in tissue culture, labeled with the lipophilic dye DiI, and microinjected into the ventral portion of the neural plate. After 2 days, some neural crest cells became incorporated into the neuroepithelium in positions characteristic of floor plate cells and motor neurons. Some of the labeled cells within the ventral neural tube expressed FP-1, characteristic of floor plate cells. A few labeled cells were found in positions characteristic of motor neurons and expressed islet-1. In contrast, neural crest cells transplanted onto neural crest pathways expressed the HNK-1 epitope, but no ventral neural tube markers. Injection of neural crest cells into the mesenchyme adjacent to the notochord or culturing them in the presence of Sonic hedgehog failed to elicit FP-1 expression. These results suggest that migrating neural crest cells are flexible in their fate and retain the ability to form neural tube derivatives even after emigrating from the neural tube.

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