Specification of neural crest progenitors begins during gastrulation at the neural plate border, long before migration or differentiation. Neural crest cell fate is acquired by progressive activation of discrete groups of transcription factors that appear to be highly conserved in vertebrates; however, comprehensive analysis of their expression has been lacking in chick, an important model system for neural crest development. To address this, we analyzed expression of 10 transcription factors that are known specifiers of neural plate border and neural crest fate and compared them across developmental stages from gastrulation to neural crest migration. Surprisingly, we find that most neural crest specifiers are expressed during gastrulation in chick, concomitant with and in similar domains as neural plate border specifiers. This finding suggests that interactions between these molecules may occur much earlier than previously thought, an important consideration for interpretation of functional studies.
(c) 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.