Analysis of migratory behavior of neural crest and fibroblastic cells in embryonic tissues

C. A. Erickson, K. W. Tosney, J. A. Weston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Scopus citations


The precise migration of neural crest cells is apparently controlled by their environment. We have examined whether the embryonic tissue spaces in which crest cells normally migrate are sufficient to account for the pattern of crest cell distribution and whether other migratory cells could also distribute themselves along these pathways. To this end, we grafted a variety of cell types into the initial crest cell migratory pathway in chicken embryos. These cell types included (a) undifferentiated neural crest cells isolated from cultured neural tubes, intact crest from cranial neural folds, and crest derivatives (pigment cells and spinal ganglia); (b) normal embryonic fibroblastic cells from somite, limb bud, lateral plate, and heart ventricle; and (c) a transformed fibroblastic cell line (Sarcoma 180). Crest cells or their derivatives grafted into the crest migratory pathway all distributed normally, although in contrast to the result when neural tubes were graftedin situ, fewer cells were observed in the epithelium and few or none were localized in the nascent spinal ganglia. Grafted quail somite cells contributed to normal somitic structures and did not migrate extensively in the chicken host. Other fibroblasts did not migrate along cranial or trunk crest pathways, or invade adjacent tissues, but remained intact at the graft site. Sarcoma 180 cells, however, distributed themselves along the normal trunk crest pathway. Cranial and trunk crest cells and crest derivatives grafted ectopically in the limb bud or somite also dispersed, and were found along the ventral migratory pathway. Fibroblastic cells grafted into ectopic sites again remained intact and did not invade host tissue. We conclude (1) that neural crest cells and their derivatives are highly motile and invasive in their normal pathway, as well as in unfamiliar embryonic environments; and (2) that the crest pathway does not act solely to direct neural crest cells, since at least one transformed cell can follow the crest migratory route.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)142-156
Number of pages15
JournalDevelopmental Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 1 1980
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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