Making a face: A new and earlier marker of neural crest development

July 11, 2006

New Haven, Conn. -- The fate of cells that go on to form the face, skull and nerve centers of the head and neck in vertebrates is determined much earlier in development than previously thought, and is independent of interaction with other forming tissues, according to a recent study published in the journal Nature.

The collaborators at Yale and Caltech demonstrate with three different technologies -- immunostaining of proteins, in situ hybridization and multiplex RT-PCR of mRNAs -- that formation of neural crest cells in chick embryos is independent of both mesoderm and neural tissues. They also identify, Pax7, as an early marker of neural crest formation and prove that its function is required in the earliest stages of development.

The neural crest is a population of stem cells that migrate extensively during development and give rise to many derivatives, including most of the bone and cartilage of the head skeleton, pigment cells of the skin, and cells of the peripheral nervous system.

In humans, cleft palate, heart valve malformations and various tumors are among the common malformations associated with disruption of neural crest development.

Chick embryos have well-characterized stages and are a valuable model for examining vertebrate development. While it was known that the ability to form neural crest cells declines after "stage 10," the researchers were seeking the earliest conditions surrounding formation of these important stem cells.

"Understanding the origin of neural crest cells -- where, when and how they arise -- is a critical step if we are to manipulate them for therapeutic purposes," said Martín García-Castro, assistant professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology at Yale and principal investigator on the study. "Implications of these basic questions of biology and development reach far beyond these chicken and eggs."

Based on work from the 1940's before molecular tools were available, the neural crest was thought to form by interactions between neural and non-neural cell layers. "We show in this work that neural crest stem cell precursors are designated very early in development -- as early as the gastrula stages -- and in an independent fashion from those other tissues," said Martín García-Castro.

The researchers grew grafts of cells from "stage 3" chick embryos, before the neural plate formed, in non-inducing cultures. Surprisingly, restricted regions of the embryo generated both migrating neural crest cells and their derivative cell types, without any interaction with neural or mesodermal tissues.

"Our results are contrary to current text-book models and suggest that different modes of neural crest induction operate during development," said Martín García-Castro. "Interestingly, the one we have uncovered is related to the early, cranial neural crest cells, the only ones in higher vertebrates that retain bone and cartilage forming potential."
-end-
Other authors were Martin L. Basch and Marianne Bronner-Fraser for the California Institute of Technology. The research was supported by a US Public Health Service grant. Supplementary information is linked to the online version of the paper at www.nature.com/nature .

Martín García-Castro
http://www.biology.yale.edu/facultystaff/garcia-castro.html

Molecular cellular and developmental biology
http://www.biology.yale.edu/index.html

Yale University

Related Biology Articles from Brightsurf:

Experimental Biology press materials available now
Though the Experimental Biology (EB) 2020 meeting was canceled in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, EB research abstracts are being published in the April 2020 issue of The FASEB Journal.

Structural biology: Special delivery
Bulky globular proteins require specialized transport systems for insertion into membranes.

Cell biology: All in a flash!
Scientists of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich have developed a tool to eliminate essential proteins from cells with a flash of light.

A biology boost
Assistance during the first years of a biology major leads to higher retention of first-generation students.

Cell biology: Compartments and complexity
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich biologists have taken a closer look at the subcellular distribution of proteins and metabolic intermediates in a model plant.

Cell biology: The complexity of division by two
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich researchers have identified a novel protein that plays a crucial role in the formation of the mitotic spindle, which is essential for correct segregation of a full set of chromosomes to each daughter cell during cell division.

Cell biology: Dynamics of microtubules
Filamentous polymers called microtubules play vital roles in chromosome segregation and molecular transport.

The biology of color
Scientists are on a threshold of a new era of color science with regard to animals, according to a comprehensive review of the field by a multidisciplinary team of researchers led by professor Tim Caro at UC Davis.

Kinky biology
How and why proteins fold is a problem that has implications for protein design and therapeutics.

A new tool to decipher evolutionary biology
A new bioinformatics tool to compare genome data has been developed by teams from the Max F.

Read More: Biology News and Biology Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.