Neural crest cell migration in the developing embryo

Trends Cell Biol. 1993 Nov;3(11):392-7. doi: 10.1016/0962-8924(93)90089-j.


In vertebrate embryos, neural crest cells migrate extensively to defined sites where they differentiate into a complex array of derivatives, ranging from neurons to pigment cells. Neural crest cells emerge uniformly from the neural tube but their subsequent migratory pattern is segmented along much of the body axis. What factors control this segmental migration? At trunk levels, it is imposed by the intrinsic segmentation of the neighbouring somitic mesoderm, while in the head, intrinsic information within the neural tube as well as extrinsic influences from the ectoderm are involved. A variety of cell-cell and cell-extracellular matrix interactions are thought to influence initiation and movement of neural crest cells. This review summarizes recent progress from both experimental embryology and cell biology approaches in uncovering the mechanisms underlying neural crest cell migration.