Neurofilament expression in vagal neural crest-derived precursors of enteric neurons

Dev Biol. 1984 Oct;105(2):273-87. doi: 10.1016/0012-1606(84)90285-9.


In order to gain insight into the potential role of the enteric microenvironment in the neuronal determination of the neural crest-derived precursor cells of enteric neurons, an attempt was made to ascertain when and where along the migratory route of these cells that they first express neuronal properties. The immunocytochemical detection of the 160-kDa component of the triplet of the chick neurofilament peptides served as a neuronal marker. In addition, neurogenic potential was assessed by growing explants of tissue suspected of containing presumptive neuroblasts in culture or as grafts on the chorioallantoic membrane of chick embryonic hosts. Neurofilament immunoreactivity was first detected in the foregut by Day 4 of development and spread to the hindgut by Day 7. Within the hindgut, development was more advanced within the colorectum than within the more proximal terminal ileum and caecal appendages. This probably reflects the distal-proximal migration of sacral neural crest cells in the postumbilical bowel. The ability of enteric explants to show neuronal development in vitro correlated with whether or not cells containing neurofilament immunoreactivity had reached that segment of gut at the age of explantation. These data suggest that enteric neuronal precursors have already begun to differentiate as neurons by the time they colonize the gut. Prior to the appearance of fibrillar neurofilament immunoreactivity in the foregut, cells that express this marker were found transiently within the mesenchyme of branchial arches 3, 4, and 5. These cells had disappeared from this region by developmental Day 6. The neurogenic potential of branchial arches 3 and 4 was demonstrated by the correlation that was found between the ability of explants of these arches to show neuronal development in vitro and the presence within them of cells that display neurofilament immunoreactivity. No similar neurogenic potential was found in the more rostral branchial arches which lacked the masses of neurofilament-immunoreactive cells. The location of the caudal branchial arches below the migrating vagal neural crest, the transience of the neurofilament immunoreactivity in them, and the coincident transience of their neurogenic potential in vitro, suggested that the masses of neurofilament immunoreactive cells in the caudal branchial arches might be vagal neural crest-derived neuronal precursor cells en route to the pharynx and the rest of the gut.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chick Embryo
  • Cytoskeleton / ultrastructure*
  • Duodenum / embryology
  • Duodenum / innervation
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Intestines / embryology
  • Intestines / innervation*
  • Neural Crest / ultrastructure*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Neurons / ultrastructure*
  • Organ Culture Techniques
  • Vagus Nerve / embryology*
  • Vagus Nerve / ultrastructure
  • Vimentin / analysis


  • Vimentin