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Review
, 179 (6), 495-500

Generation of Cell Diversity in the Peripheral Autonomic Nervous System: The Sympathoadrenal Cell Lineage Revisited

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Review

Generation of Cell Diversity in the Peripheral Autonomic Nervous System: The Sympathoadrenal Cell Lineage Revisited

K Unsicker et al. Ann Anat.

Abstract

Based on recent evidence from in vitro and gene knock-out/knock-in studies this short review summarizes the molecular scenario underlying the development of autonomic neurons from the neural crest. The focus is on the sympathoadrenal (SA) cell lineage. While migrating ventrally precursors of this cell lineage are exposed to signals from notochord/ventral neural tube probably including the protein sonic hedgehog. These and signals in the region of the dorsal aorta (members of the family of bone morphogenetic proteins), where SA progenitor cells subsequently assemble, are essential for the induction of the adrenergic phenotype. SA progenitor cells subsequently differentiate into paravertebral and prevertebral sympathetic neurons, intra- and extra-adrenal chromaffin cells and intermediate SIF (small intensely fluorescent) cells. Based on in vitro studies with isolated SA and chromaffin progenitor cells glucocorticoids have been claimed as essential for suppressing a neuronal commitment and channeling SA cells towards the chromaffin phenotype. Unexpectedly, mice deficient for a functional glucocorticoid receptor possess the full complement of adrenal chromaffin cells at birth. We present a hypothetical scenario consistent with these data, in which chromaffin cell development would be the default pathway in the SA cell lineage, while development into a neuronal direction requires specific growth factor signaling, which is probably distinct for paravertebral and prevertebral sympathetic neurons.

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