Neural crest cell contribution to the developing circulatory system: implications for vascular morphology?

Circ Res. 1998 Feb 9;82(2):221-31. doi: 10.1161/01.res.82.2.221.


In this study, the distribution patterns of neural crest (NC) cells (NCCs) in the developing vascular system of the chick were thoroughly studied and examined for a correlation with smooth muscle cell differentiation and vascular morphogenesis. For this purpose, we performed long-term lineage tracing using quail-chick chimera techniques and premigratory NCC infection with a replication-incompetent retrovirus containing the LacZ reporter gene in combination with immunohistochemistry. Results indicate that NCC deposition around endothelial tubes is influenced by anteroposterior positional information from the pharyngeal arterial system. NCCs were shown to be among the first cells to differentiate into primary smooth muscle cells of the arch arteries. At later stages, NCCs eventually differentiated into adventitial fibroblasts and smooth muscle cells and nonmuscular cells of the media and intima. NCCs were distributed in the aortic arch and pulmonary arch arteries and in the brachiocephalic and carotid arteries. The coronary and pulmonary arteries and the descending aorta, however, remained devoid of NCCs. A new finding was that the media of part of the anterior cardinal veins was also determined to be NC-derived. NC-derived elastic arteries differed from non-NC elastic vessels in their cellular constitution and elastic fiber organization, and the NC appeared not to be involved in designating a muscular or elastic artery. Boundaries between NC-infested areas and mesodermal vessel structures were mostly very sharp and tended to coincide with marked changes in vascular morphology, with the exception of an intriguing area in the aortic and pulmonary trunks.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Vessels / cytology
  • Blood Vessels / embryology
  • Cardiovascular System / cytology
  • Cardiovascular System / embryology*
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Chick Embryo / cytology
  • Chick Embryo / physiology
  • Chimera
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Lac Operon
  • Neural Crest / cytology
  • Neural Crest / physiology*
  • Quail
  • Retroviridae / genetics