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Neural crest contributions to the lamprey head
David W. McCauley, Marianne Bronner-Fraser


The neural crest is a vertebrate-specific cell population that contributes to the facial skeleton and other derivatives. We have performed focal DiI injection into the cranial neural tube of the developing lamprey in order to follow the migratory pathways of discrete groups of cells from origin to destination and to compare neural crest migratory pathways in a basal vertebrate to those of gnathostomes. The results show that the general pathways of cranial neural crest migration are conserved throughout the vertebrates, with cells migrating in streams analogous to the mandibular and hyoid streams. Caudal branchial neural crest cells migrate ventrally as a sheet of cells from the hindbrain and super-pharyngeal region of the neural tube and form a cylinder surrounding a core of mesoderm in each pharyngeal arch, similar to that seen in zebrafish and axolotl. In addition to these similarities, we also uncovered important differences. Migration into the presumptive caudal branchial arches of the lamprey involves both rostral and caudal movements of neural crest cells that have not been described in gnathostomes, suggesting that barriers that constrain rostrocaudal movement of cranial neural crest cells may have arisen after the agnathan/gnathostome split. Accordingly, neural crest cells from a single axial level contributed to multiple arches and there was extensive mixing between populations. There was no apparent filling of neural crest derivatives in a ventral-to-dorsal order, as has been observed in higher vertebrates, nor did we find evidence of a neural crest contribution to cranial sensory ganglia. These results suggest that migratory constraints and additional neural crest derivatives arose later in gnathostome evolution.


    • Accepted February 24, 2003.
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