Migration of cranial neural crest cells to the pharyngeal arches and heart in rat embryos

Cell Tissue Res. 1992 Apr;268(1):1-8. doi: 10.1007/BF00338048.


The existence of a neural crest cell migration pathway from occipital levels of the hindbrain into the heart was suspected in mammalian embryos because it had previously been identified in avian embryos and because the Di George anomaly, an association between craniofacial and cardiac malformations, is most easily explained on the basis of abnormal neural crest cell migration to all of the affected structures. In order to demonstrate the existence of this pathway, neural crest cells were labelled in situ in rat embryos with the fluorescent dye DiI, and the embryos cultured for up to 48 h. Cells labelled between occipital somites 1 and 2 or 3 and 4 migrated within and dorsal to the third and fourth pharyngeal arches and into the outflow tract of the heart (conus cordis and truncus arteriosus). The cardiac labelling was in individually visible cells, in contrast to the mass of fluorescence seen in the pharyngeal and dorsal mesenchyme. Within the outflow tract wall, the labelled cells were enmeshed by strands of alcian blue-stained extracellular matrix. There was no labelling of cardiac cells following injections just rostral to, or just caudal to, somites one and four. This study establishes the existence and precise levels of origin of the 'cardiac' neural crest in a mammalian embryo.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers
  • Carbocyanines
  • Carrier Proteins / analysis
  • Cell Movement
  • Chick Embryo
  • DiGeorge Syndrome / embryology
  • Fetal Heart / cytology*
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Morphogenesis
  • Neural Crest / cytology*
  • Organ Culture Techniques
  • Pharynx / embryology*
  • Rats / embryology*
  • Rats, Inbred Strains / embryology
  • Receptors, Retinoic Acid
  • Rhombencephalon / cytology
  • Species Specificity


  • Biomarkers
  • Carbocyanines
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Receptors, Retinoic Acid
  • 3,3'-dioctadecylindocarbocyanine