UMR CNRS 6204, Faculté des Sciences et des Techniques, Nantes, France
Embryonic chimera production was used to study the developmental processes of the mouse nervous system. The difficulty of performing in situ transplantation experiments of neural primordium of mouse embryo was overcome by isotopic and isochronic grafting of mouse neural tube fragments into chick embryo. Mouse neural tube cells differentiated perfectly in ovo and neural crest cells associated with the grafted neural tube were able to migrate and reach the normal arrest sites of host neural crests. Cranial neural crest cells penetrated into chick facial areas and entered into the development of dental bud structures, participating in vibrissa formation. Depending on graft level, in ovo implanted mouse neural crest cells formed different components of the peripheral nervous system. At trunk level, they located in spinal ganglia and orthosympathetic chains and gave rise to Schwann cells lining the nerves. When implanted into the lumbosacral region, they penetrated into the enteric nervous system. At the precise 18-24 somite level, they colonized host adrenal gland. Mouse neural tube was involved in the mechanisms required to maintain myogenesis in host somites. Furthermore in ovo grafts of mouse cells from genetically modified embryos, in which many mutations induce early death, are particularly useful to investigate cellular events involved in the development of the nervous system and to identify molecular events of embryogenesis.