Int J Dev Biol 2012 ;56(4):245-54
Neural Development and Gastroenterology Units, UCL Institute of Child Health, London, UK.
Neural crest cells (NCC) are multipotent progenitors that migrate extensively throughout the developing embryo and generate a diverse range of cell types. Vagal NCC migrate from the hindbrain into the foregut and from there along the gastrointestinal tract to form the enteric nervous system (ENS), the intrinsic innervation of the gut, and into the developing lung buds to form the intrinsic innervation of the lungs. The aim of this study was to determine the developmental potential of vagal NCC that had already colonised the gut or the lungs. We used transgenic chicken embryos that ubiquitously express green fluorescent protein (GFP) to permanently mark and fate-map vagal NCC using intraspecies grafting. This was combined with back-transplantation of gut and lung segments, containing GFP-positive NCC, into the vagal region of a second recipient embryo to determine, using immunohistochemical staining, whether gut or lung NCC are competent of re-colonising both these organs, or whether their fate is restricted. Chick(GFP)-chick intraspecies grafting efficiently labelled NCC within the gut and lung of chick embryos. When segments of embryonic day (E)5.5 pre-umbilical midgut containing GFP-positive NCC were back-transplanted into the vagal region of E1.5 host embryos, the GFP-positive NCC remigrated to colonise both the gut and lungs and differentiated into neurons in stereotypical locations. However, GFP-positive lung NCC did not remigrate when back-transplanted. Our studies suggest that gut NCC are not restricted to colonising only this organ, since upon back-transplantation GFP-positive gut NCC colonised both the gut and the lung.