Environmental signals and cell fate specification in premigratory neural crest

Bioessays. 2000 Aug;22(8):708-16. doi: 10.1002/1521-1878(200008)22:8<708::AID-BIES4>3.0.CO;2-N.


Neural crest cells are multipotent progenitors, capable of producing diverse cell types upon differentiation. Recent studies have identified significant heterogeneity in both the fates produced and genes expressed by different premigratory crest cells. While these cells may be specified toward particular fates prior to migration, transplant studies show that some may still be capable of respecification at this time. Here we summarize evidence that extracellular signals in the local environment may act to specify premigratory crest and thus generate diversity in the population. Three main classes of signals-Wnts, BMP2/BMP4 and TGFbeta1,2,3-have been shown to directly influence the production of particular neural crest cell fates, and all are expressed near the premigratory crest. This system may therefore provide a good model for integration of multiple signaling pathways during embryonic cell fate specification.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins / metabolism
  • Neural Crest / cytology*
  • Neural Crest / metabolism
  • Neuronal Plasticity
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • Stem Cells / cytology
  • Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / metabolism
  • Wnt Proteins
  • Zebrafish Proteins*


  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • Wnt Proteins
  • Zebrafish Proteins