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Published March 1993 | Published
Journal Article Open

Molecular Control of Cell Fate in the Neural Crest: The Sympathoadrenal Lineage


A central problem in developmental neurobiology is understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms that generate the diversity of cell types found in the nervous system. Although the general problem of cell type specification can be addressed in many non-neuronal tissues, it is particularly challenging in the nervous system, because of the enormous variety of cell types that exist, and the phenotypic plasticity they display. In recent years, several technical breakthroughs have permitted an intensive analysis of cell lineage relationships in various parts of the vertebrate nervous system. These have included the development of recombinant retroviruses for genetic marking of cell fate (Sanes et al 1986; Turner & Cepko 1987) and membrane-impermanent lineage tracers for microinjection of single progenitor cells (Holt et al 1988; Wetts & Fraser 1988). These techniques have revealed that in many (but not all) systems, individual neural precursor cells give rise to a variety of different cell types, thus demonstrating that they are multipotent. In the case of the neural crest, application of both techniques has indicated that many neural crest cells are multipotent, before (Bronner-Fraser & Fraser 1988, 1989; Frank & Sanes 1991) or shortly after (Fraser & Bronner-Fraser 1991) they migrate from the neural tube.

Additional Information

© 1993 Annual Reviews. I thank Derek Stemple, Susan Birren, and Paul Patterson for their critical comments on this review, and Helen Walsh for her expert preparation of the manuscript. Work described in this review was supported by National Institutes of Health grant NS23476, a Pew Foundation Faculty Fellowship, and a Sloan Foundation Fellowship in Neuroscience.

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