The embryonic development of the olfactory nerve includes the differentiation of cells within the olfactory placode, migration of cells into the mesenchyme from the placode, and extension of axons by the olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs). The coalition of both placode-derived migratory cells and OSN axons within the mesenchyme is collectively termed the "migratory mass." Here we address the sequence and coordination of the events that give rise to the migratory mass. Using neuronal and developmental markers, we show subpopulations of neurons emerging from the placode by embryonic day (E)10, a time at which the migratory mass is largely cellular and only a few isolated OSN axons are seen, prior to the first appearance of OSN axon fascicles at E11. These neurons also precede the emergence of the gonadotropin-releasing hormone neurons and ensheathing glia which are also resident in the mesenchyme as part of the migratory mass beginning at about E11. The data reported here begin to establish a spatiotemporal framework for the migration of molecularly heterogeneous placode-derived cells in the mesenchyme. The precocious emigration of the early arriving neurons in the mesenchyme suggests they may serve as "guidepost cells" that contribute to the establishment of a scaffold for the extension and coalescence of the OSN axons.
© 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.