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Published April 15, 1999 | Published
Journal Article Open

Early specification of sensory neuron fate revealed by expression and function of neurogenins in the chick embryo


The generation of sensory and autonomic neurons from the neural crest requires the functions of two classes of basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) transcription factors, the Neurogenins (NGNs) and MASH-1, respectively (Fode, C., Gradwohl, G., Morin, X., Dierich, A., LeMeur, M., Goridis, C. and Guillemot, F. (1998) Neuron 20, 483-494; Guillemot, F., Lo, L.-C., Johnson, J. E., Auerbach, A., Anderson, D. J. and Joyner, A. L. (1993) Cell 75, 463-476; Ma, Q., Chen, Z. F., Barrantes, I. B., de la Pompa, J. L. and Anderson, D. J. (1998 Neuron 20, 469-482). We have cloned two chick NGNs and found that they are expressed in a subset of neural crest cells early in their migration. Ectopic expression of the NGNs in vivo biases migrating neural crest cells to localize in the sensory ganglia, and induces the expression of sensory neuron-appropriate markers in non-sensory crest derivatives. Surprisingly, the NGNs can also induce the expression of multiple pan-neuronal and sensory-specific markers in the dermomyotome, a mesodermal derivative. Taken together, these data suggest that a subset of neural crest cells may already be specified for a sensory neuron fate early in migration, as a consequence of NGN expression.

Additional Information

© 1999 by Company of Biologists. Accepted 8 February; published on WWW 17 March 1999. We are grateful to P. Jeffrey for the chick SCG10 probe, T. Jessell and S. Morton for the ISL2 and HB9 antibodies, and G. Belford and S. Ruffins for assistance with confocal microscopy. S.E.P. thanks P. White for her introduction to chick embryology, L. Sommer for suggesting the use of the rodent NGNs in the RCAS constructs and C. Marcelle and members of the Bronner-Fraser laboratory for advice on concentrating RCAS virus. We are grateful to M. Bronner-Fraser, M. Dickinson, A. Groves and Q. Ma for critical comments on the manuscript. This work was supported in part by a grant from the March of Dimes Foundation. S.R. was supported by a fellowship from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, and S.E.P. was supported by an MFP fellowship from the American Psychological Foundation and by an NRSA from the NINDS. D.J.A. is an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

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