The airway epithelium consists of diverse cell types, including neuroendocrine (NE) cells. These cells are thought to function as chemoreceptors and as a component of the stem cell niche as well as the cells of origin in small-cell lung cancer. NE cells often localize at bifurcation points of airway tubes, forming small clusters called neuroepithelial bodies (NEBs). To investigate NEB development, we established methods for 3D mapping and ex vivo 4D imaging of developing lungs. We found that NEBs localize at stereotypic positions in the bifurcation area irrespective of variations in size. Notch-Hes1 signaling contributes to the differentiation of solitary NE cells, regulating their number but not localization. Live imaging revealed that individual NE cells migrate distally to and cluster at bifurcation points, driving NEB formation. We propose that NEB development is a multistep process involving differentiation of individual NE cells and their directional migration to organize NEBs.
Copyright © 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.