Semaphorin3A/neuropilin-1 signaling acts as a molecular switch regulating neural crest migration during cornea development

Dev Biol. 2009 Dec 15;336(2):257-65. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2009.10.008. Epub 2009 Oct 13.


Cranial neural crest cells migrate into the periocular region and later contribute to various ocular tissues including the cornea, ciliary body and iris. After reaching the eye, they initially pause before migrating over the lens to form the cornea. Interestingly, removal of the lens leads to premature invasion and abnormal differentiation of the cornea. In exploring the molecular mechanisms underlying this effect, we find that semaphorin3A (Sema3A) is expressed in the lens placode and epithelium continuously throughout eye development. Interestingly, neuropilin-1 (Npn-1) is expressed by periocular neural crest but down-regulated, in a manner independent of the lens, by the subpopulation that migrates into the eye and gives rise to the cornea endothelium and stroma. In contrast, Npn-1 expressing neural crest cells remain in the periocular region and contribute to the anterior uvea and ocular blood vessels. Introduction of a peptide that inhibits Sema3A/Npn-1 signaling results in premature entry of neural crest cells over the lens that phenocopies lens ablation. Furthermore, Sema3A inhibits periocular neural crest migration in vitro. Taken together, our data reveal a novel and essential role of Sema3A/Npn-1 signaling in coordinating periocular neural crest migration that is vital for proper ocular development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chick Embryo
  • Cornea / embryology*
  • Coturnix
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Neural Crest / embryology*
  • Neuropilin-1 / metabolism*
  • Semaphorin-3A / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction*


  • Semaphorin-3A
  • Neuropilin-1