Table of Contents
Advances in Biology
Volume 2014, Article ID 264069, 8 pages
Review Article

Migrating into Genomics with the Neural Crest

Division of Biology and Biological Engineering, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA

Received 25 December 2013; Accepted 18 March 2014; Published 22 June 2014

Academic Editor: Boris Jerchow

Copyright © 2014 Marianne E. Bronner. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Neural crest cells are a fascinating embryonic cell type, unique to vertebrates, which arise within the central nervous system but emigrate soon after its formation and migrate to numerous and sometimes distant locations in the periphery. Following their migratory phase, they differentiate into diverse derivatives ranging from peripheral neurons and glia to skin melanocytes and craniofacial cartilage and bone. The molecular underpinnings underlying initial induction of prospective neural crest cells at the neural plate border to their migration and differentiation have been modeled in the form of a putative gene regulatory network. This review describes experiments performed in my laboratory in the past few years aimed to test and elaborate this gene regulatory network from both an embryonic and evolutionary perspective. The rapid advances in genomic technology in the last decade have greatly expanded our knowledge of important transcriptional inputs and epigenetic influences on neural crest development. The results reveal new players and new connections in the neural crest gene regulatory network and suggest that it has an ancient origin at the base of the vertebrate tree.