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Published July 1994 | metadata_only
Journal Article

Stem cells and transcription factors in the development of the mammalian neural crest


The neural crest is a migratory population of multipotent embryonic cells that generates the neurons and glia of the peripheral nervous system, as well as a variety of non-neural mesectodermal and endocrine cell types. The study of neural crest cell and molecular biology provides a system to investigate how such multipotent cells choose their fates, and whether the repertoire of fates becomes progressively restricted with time. The study of mammalian neural crest development has lagged behind studies of avian crest development due to the relative inaccessibility of mammalian embryos. The development of reverse genetic methods in mice, however, has made the analysis of mammalian neural crest development both more attractive and more tractable. Rodent neural crest cells have been isolated and grown in clonogenic cultures, where they behave as multipotent stem cells. This system provides an assay for factors that influence the differentiation of these multipotent cells. Transcription factors provide valuable early markers for neural crest cells as well as molecular handles on the lineage segregation process. One such factor is Mash1, a homolog of the Drosophila proneural genes, achaete-scute. Mash1 marks autonomic progenitor cells and is essential for their development in vivo, as shown by gene knockout experiments.

Additional Information

© 1994 by The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. For their contributions to work discussed in this review, I acknowledge my colleagues Derek Stemple, Jane Johnson, Liching Lo, Kathryn Zimmerman, Tetsuichiro Saito, Susan Birren, Lukas Sommer, Mahendra Rao, and Nirao Shah (Caltech); Francois Guillemot and Alexandra L. Joyner (Mt. Sinai Hospital, Toronto); Mark Marchionni (Cambridge NeuroSciences,Inc.)and Paul Stroobant (Cell GeneSys, Inc.). I also thank Vassilis Pachnis, P. Cserjesi, and Tom Jessell for making reagents and unpublished data available to us. I am grateful to Nirao Shah for his constructive comments on this manuscript. Parts of the work described here were supported by National Institutes of Health grant NS23476, by the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. D. J. A. is an Associate Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

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August 20, 2023
August 20, 2023