The vertebrate neural crest is a migratory stem cell population that arises within the central nervous system. Here, we combine embryological techniques with array technology to describe 83 genes that provide the first gene expression profile of a newly induced neural crest cell. This profile contains numerous novel markers of neural crest precursors and reveals previously unrecognized similarities between neural crest cells and endothelial cells, another migratory cell population. We have performed a secondary screen using in situ hybridization that allows us to extract temporal information and reconstruct the progression of neural crest gene expression as these cells become different from their neighbors and migrate. Our results reveal a sequential 'migration activation' process that reflects stages in the transition to a migratory neural crest cell and suggests that migratory potential is established in a pool of cells from which a subset are activated to migrate.
- Neural crest