Analysis of Integrin-Dependent Melanoblast Migration During Development

Methods Mol Biol. 2023:2608:207-221. doi: 10.1007/978-1-0716-2887-4_13.


The neural crest is a transient embryonic structure that gives rise to a number of important cell types and tissues, including most of the peripheral and enteric nervous systems, pigment-producing skin cells known as melanocytes, and many craniofacial structures. Melanoblasts, the precursors of melanocytes, are derived from the so-called trunk neural crest cells. These cells delaminate and migrate along a dorsolateral pathway to colonize their final destination in the skin, and consequently, defects in melanoblast migration result in pigmentation defects. Studying melanocyte migration is a topic of great interest due to the involvement of melanocytes in highly metastatic skin cancer. A role for integrin-mediated adhesion is well established in neural crest migration, and our recent work has provided direct evidence for a key role for integrin-based adhesion in melanocyte migration. Imaging of melanoblast migration in the context of intact skin has proven to be a particularly powerful tool to study integrin-based adhesion during melanoblast migration. Here, we describe the use of skin explants combined with genetically encoded markers for melanocytes and high-resolution live imaging as a powerful and informative approach to analyze melanoblast migration in an ex vivo context.

Keywords: Cell adhesion; Immunofluorescence; Melanoblast; Migration; Neural crest; Transgenic mice; Whole-embryo staining.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Cell Movement / physiology
  • Chromatophores*
  • Integrins* / metabolism
  • Melanocytes / metabolism
  • Neural Crest
  • Pigmentation
  • Skin


  • Integrins