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The “beginnings” of the neural crest

Le Douarin, Nicole M., Dupin, Elisabeth
Developmental biology 2018 v.444 pp. S3
biologists, birds, environmental factors, neural crest, physiology
The neural crest has been the main object of my investigations during my career in science, up to now. It is a fascinating topic for an embryologist because of its two unique characteristics: its large degree of multipotency and the fact that its development involves a phase during which its component cells migrate all over the embryo and settle in elected sites where they differentiate into a large variety of cell types.Thus, neural crest development raises several specific questions that are at the same time, of general interest: what are the mechanisms controlling the migratory behavior of the cells that detach from the neural plate borders? What are the migration routes taken by the neural crest cells and the environmental factors that make these cells stop in elected sites where they differentiate into a definite series of cell types?When I started to be interested in the neural crest, in the late 1960s, this embryonic structure was the subject of investigations of only a small number of developmental biologists. Fifty years later, it has become the center of interest of many laboratories over the world.The 150th anniversary of its discovery is a relevant opportunity to consider the progress that has been accomplished in our knowledge on the development of this ubiquitous structure, the roles it plays in the physiology of the organism through its numerous and widespread derivatives and its relationships with its environment, as well as the evolutionary advantages it has conferred to the vertebrate phylum.I wish to thank Pr Marianne Bronner, Chief Editor of Developmental Biology and Special Issue Guest Editor, for dedicating a special issue of this journal to this particular structure of the vertebrate embryo.In the following pages, Elisabeth Dupin and I will report some of the highlights of our own acquaintance with the neural crest of the avian embryo, after retracing the main trends of the discoveries of the historical pioneers.