The sense of smell in vertebrates is detected by specialized sensory neurons derived from the peripheral nervous system. Classically, it has been presumed that the olfactory placode forms all olfactory sensory neurons. In contrast, we show that the cranial neural crest is the primary source of microvillous sensory neurons within the olfactory epithelium of zebrafish embryos. Using photoconversion-based fate mapping and live cell tracking coupled with laser ablation, we followed neural crest precursors as they migrated from the neural tube to the nasal cavity. A subset that coexpressed Sox10 protein and a neurogenin1 reporter ingressed into the olfactory epithelium and differentiated into microvillous sensory neurons. Timed loss-of-function analysis revealed a critical role for Sox10 in microvillous neurogenesis. Taken together, these findings directly demonstrate a heretofore unknown contribution of the cranial neural crest to olfactory sensory neurons in zebrafish and provide important insights into the assembly of the nascent olfactory system. DOI:http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.00336.001.
Keywords: Zebrafish; microvillous sensory neurons; neural crest migration; neurogenesis; olfactory development.