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Published December 26, 1986 | public
Journal Article

A Bipotential Neuroendocrine Precursor Whose Choice of Cell Fate Is Determined by NGF and Glucocorticoids


Adrenal medullary endocrine (chromaffin) cells and sympathetic neurons both derive from the neural crest. We have found that the embryonic adrenal medulla and sympathetic ganglia are both initially populated by precursors expressing neural-specific genes. By birth, however, the medulla consists largely of chromaffin cells. In primary culture, the medullary precursors have three developmental fates: in NGF they continue to mature into neurons and survive, whereas in glucocorticoid they either extinguish their neuronal properties and exhibit an endocrine phenotype, or else continue to develop into neurons but then die. These data suggest that, in vivo, the adrenal medulla develops through both the glucocorticoid-induced differentiation of bipotential progenitors and the degeneration of committed neuronal precursors, which have migrated into the gland.

Additional Information

© 1986 by Cell Press. Received 9 September 1986, We are grateful to Jane Dodd and Tom Jesse11 for providing antibodies, valuable discussions, technical advice, and unrestricted use of their respective laboratories; Ira Schieren for his superb technical expertise in operating the cell sorter; Arthur Lander and Ann Calof for valuable criticism; Sally Temple and Paul Patterson for their constructive comments on the manuscript; and Martin Raff for an influential conversation. This work was supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and a fellowship to D. J. A. from the Helen Hay Whitney Foundation. The costs of publication of this article were defrayed in part by the payment of page charges. This article must therefore be hereby marked "advertisement" in accordance with 18 U.S.C. Section 1734 solely to indicate this fact.

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