Neural crest-derived cells that form the enteric nervous system undergo an extensive migration from the caudal hindbrain to colonize the entire gastrointestinal tract. Mice in which the expression of GFP is under the control of the Ret promoter were used to visualize neural crest-derived cell migration in the embryonic mouse gut in organ culture. Time-lapse imaging revealed that GFP+ crest-derived cells formed chains that displayed complicated patterns of migration, with sudden and frequent changes in migratory speed and trajectories. Some of the leading cells and their processes formed a scaffold along which later cells migrated. To examine the effect of population size on migratory behavior, a small number of the most caudal GFP+ cells were isolated from the remainder of the population. The isolated cells migrated slower than cells in large control populations, suggesting that migratory behavior is influenced by cell number and cell-cell contact. Previous studies have shown that neurons differentiate among the migrating cell population, but it is unclear whether they migrate. The phenotype of migrating cells was examined. Migrating cells expressed the neural crest cell marker, Sox10, but not neuronal markers, indicating that the majority of migratory cells observed did not have a neuronal phenotype.
- Chain migration
- Neural crest