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The issue of the multipotency of the neural crest cells

Dupin, Elisabeth, Calloni, Giordano W., Coelho-Aguiar, Juliana M., Le Douarin, Nicole M.
Developmental biology 2018 v.444 pp. S47
adults, bones, embryogenesis, experimental design, ganglia, melanocytes, mice, nerve endings, nerve tissue, neural crest, neurons, peripheral nerves, stem cells
In the neural primordium of vertebrate embryos, the neural crest (NC) displays a unique character: the capacity of its component cells to leave the neural primordium, migrate along definite (and, for long, not identified) routes in the developing embryo and invade virtually all tissues and organs, while producing a large array of differentiated cell types. The most striking diversity of the NC derivatives is found in its cephalic domain that produces, not only melanocytes and peripheral nerves and ganglia, but also various mesenchymal derivatives (connective tissues, bones, cartilages…) which, in other parts of the body, are mesoderm-derived. The aim of this article was to review the large amount of work that has been devoted to solving the problem of the differentiation capacities of individual NC cells (NCC) arising from both the cephalic and trunk levels of the neural axis. A variety of experimental designs applied to NCC either in vivo or in vitro are evaluated, including the possibility to culture them in crestospheres, a technique previously designed for cells of the CNS, and which reinforces the notion, previously put forward, of the existence of NC stem cells. At the trunk level, the developmental potentialities of the NCC are more restricted than in their cephalic counterparts, but, in addition to the neural-melanocytic fate that they exclusively express in vivo, it was clearly shown that they harbor mesenchymal capacities that can be revealed in vitro. Finally, a large amount of evidence has been obtained that, during the migration process, most of the NCC are multipotent with a variable array of potentialities among the cells considered. Investigations carried out in adults have shown that multipotent NC stem cells persist in the various sites of the body occupied by NCC. Enlightening new developments concerning the invasive capacity of NCC, the growing peripheral nerves were revealed as migration routes for NCC travelling to distant ventrolateral regions of the body. Designated “Schwann cell precursors” in the mouse embryo, these NCC can leave the nerves and are able to convert to a novel fate. The convertibility of the NC-derived cells, particularly evident in the Schwann cell-melanocyte lineage transition, has also been demonstrated for neuroendocrine cells of the adult carotid body and for the differentiation of parasympathetic neurons of ganglia distant from their origin, the NC. All these new developments attest the vitality of the research on the NC, a field that characterizes vertebrate development and for which the interest has constantly increased during the last decades.