Early stages of neural crest ontogeny: formation and regulation of cell delamination
Published: 1 May 2005
Chaya Kalcheim* and Tal Burstyn-Cohen
Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School, Jerusalem, Israel
Long standing research of the Neural Crest embodies the most fundamental questions of Developmental Biology. Understanding the mechanisms responsible for specification, delamination, migration and phenotypic differentiation of this highly diversifying group of progenitors has been a challenge for many researchers over the years and continues to attract newcomers into the field. Only a few leaps were more significant than the discovery and successful exploitation of the quail-chick model by Nicole Le Douarin and colleagues from the Institute of Embryology at Nogent-sur-Marne. The accurate fate mapping of the neural crest performed at virtually all axial levels was followed by the determination of its developmental potentialities as initially analysed at a population level and then followed by many other significant findings. Altogether, these results paved the way to innumerable questions which brought us from an organismic view to mechanistic approaches. Among them, elucidation of functions played by identified genes is now rapidly underway. Emerging results lead the way back to an integrated understanding of the nature of interactions between the developing neural crest and neighbouring structures. The Nogent Institute thus performed an authentic «tour de force» in bringing the Neural Crest to the forefront of Developmental Biology. The present review is dedicated to the pivotal contributions of Nicole Le Douarin and her collaborators and to unforgettable memories that one of the authors bears from the time spent in the Nogent Institute. We summarize here recent advances in our understanding of early stages of crest ontogeny that comprise specification of epithelial progenitors to a neural crest fate and the onset of neural crest migration. Particular emphasis is given to signaling by BMP and Wnt molecules, to the role of the cell cycle in generating cell movement and to possible interactions between both mechanisms.