The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 51: 97 - 105 (2007)

Vol 51, Issue 2

Fate of cranial neural crest cells during craniofacial development in endothelin-A receptor-deficient mice

Original Article | Published: 1 February 2007

Makoto Abe, Louis-Bruno Ruest and David E. Clouthier*

Department of Craniofacial Biology, University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center, Aurora CO, USA


Most of the bone, cartilage and connective tissue of the lower jaw is derived from cranial neural crest cells (NCCs) arising from the posterior midbrain and hindbrain. Multiple factors direct the patterning of these NCCs, including endothelin-1-mediated endothelin A receptor (Edn1/Ednra) signaling. Loss of Ednra signaling results in multiple defects in lower jaw and neck structures, including homeotic transformation of lower jaw structures into upper jaw-like structures. However, since the Ednra gene is expressed by both migrating and post-migrating NCCs, the actual function of Ednra in cranial NCC development is not clear. Ednra signaling could be required for normal migration or guidance of NCCs to the pharyngeal arches or in subsequent events in post-migratory NCCs, including proliferation and survival. To address this question, we performed a fate analysis of cranial NCCs in Ednra-/- embryos using the R26R;Wnt1-Cre reporter system, in which Cre expression within NCCs results in permanent beta-galactosidase activity in NCCs and their derivatives. We find that loss of Ednra does not detectably alter either migration of most cranial NCCs into the mandibular first arch and second arch or their subsequent proliferation. However, mesenchymal cell apoptosis is increased two fold in both E9.5 and E10.5 Ednra-/- embryos, with apoptotic cells being present in and just proximal to the pharyngeal arches. Based on these studies, Ednra signaling appears to be required by most cranial NCCs after they reach the pharyngeal arches. However, a subset of NCCs appear to require Ednra signaling earlier, with loss of Ednra signaling likely leading to premature cessation of migration into or within the arches and subsequent cell death.


neural crest, facial morphogenesis, loxP/Cre, fate mapping

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