The bones in your face, the pigment in your skin and the neural circuitry that controls your digestive tract have one thing in common: they are all derived from neural crest cells. The formation of these migratory multipotent cells poses an interesting developmental problem, as neural crest cells are not a distinct cell type until they migrate away from the central nervous system. What defines the pool of cells with neural crest potential, and why do only some of these cells become migratory? New genomic approaches in chick, zebrafish and Xenopus might hold the key.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors would like to thank S. Fraser, M. García-Castro, V. Lee, Y. Marahrens and L. Ziemer for critical comments on the manuscript, and the Bronner-Fraser lab for insightful discussions. L.S.G. is supported by a K22 Career Transition Award from the NIH. Work in M.B.F.’s lab is supported, in part, by grants from NIH and NASA.