Retinoic acid stage-dependently alters the migration pattern and identity of hindbrain neural crest cells

Development. 1995 Mar;121(3):825-37. doi: 10.1242/dev.121.3.825.


This study investigates the migration patterns of cranial neural crest cells in retinoic acid (RA)-treated rat embryos using DiI labeling. Wistar-Imamichi rat embryos were treated at the early (9.0 days post coitum, d.p.c.) and late (9.5 d.p.c.) neural plate stages with all-trans RA (2 x 10(-7) M) for 6 hours and further cultured in an RA-free medium. RA exposure stage dependently induced two typical craniofacial abnormalities; that is, at 9.0 d.p.c. it reduced the size and shape of the first branchial arch to those of the second arch, whereas, in contrast, at 9.5 d.p.c. it induced fusion of the first and second branchial arches. Early-stage treatment induced an ectopic migration of the anterior hindbrain (rhombomeres (r) 1 and 2) crest cells; they ectopically distributed in the second branchial arch and acousticofacial ganglion, as well as in their original destination, i.e., the first arch and trigeminal ganglion. In contrast, late-stage treatment did not disturb the segmental migration pattern of hindbrain crest cells even though it induced the fused branchial arch (FBA); labeled crest cells from the anterior hindbrain populated the anterior half of the FBA and those from the preotic hindbrain (r3 and r4) occupied its posterior half. In control embryos, cellular retinoic acid binding protein I (CRABP I) was strongly expressed in the second branchial arch, r4 and r6, while weakly in the first arch and r1-3. CRABP I was upregulated by the early-stage treatment in the first branchial arch and related rhombomeres, while its expression was not correspondingly changed by the late-stage treatment. Moreover, whole-mount neurofilament staining showed that, in early-RA-treated embryos, the typical structure of the trigeminal ganglion vanished, whereas the late-stage-treated embryos showed the feature of the trigeminal ganglion to be conserved, although it fused with the acousticofacial ganglion. Thus, from the standpoints of morphology, cell lineages and molecular markers, it seems likely that RA alters the regional identity of the hindbrain crest cells, which may correspond to the transformation of the hindbrain identity in RA-treated mouse embryos (Marshall et al., Nature 360, 737-741, 1992).

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Branchial Region / drug effects
  • Cell Movement / drug effects
  • Facial Bones / abnormalities
  • Facial Bones / metabolism
  • Gestational Age
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Morphogenesis / drug effects
  • Neural Crest / cytology*
  • Neural Crest / drug effects
  • Phenotype
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Receptors, Retinoic Acid / metabolism
  • Rhombencephalon / cytology
  • Rhombencephalon / embryology*
  • Skull / abnormalities
  • Skull / metabolism
  • Tretinoin / pharmacology*


  • Receptors, Retinoic Acid
  • retinoic acid binding protein I, cellular
  • Tretinoin