Resolved and open issues in chromaffin cell development

Klaus Unsicker*, Katrin Huber, Andreas Schober, Chaya Kalcheim

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Ten years of research within the DFG-funded Collaborative Research Grant SFB 488 at the University of Heidelberg have added many new facets to our understanding of chromaffin cell development. Glucocorticoid signaling is no longer the key for understanding the determination of the chromaffin phenotype, yet a novel role has been attributed to glucocorticoids: they are essential for the postnatal maintenance of adrenal and extra-adrenal chromaffin cells. Transcription factors, as, e.g. MASH1 and Phox2B, have similar, but also distinct functions in chromaffin and sympathetic neuronal development, and BMP-4 not only induces sympathoadrenal (SA) cells at the dorsal aorta andwithin the adrenal gland, but also promotes chromaffin cell maturation. Chromaffin cells and sympathetic neurons share a common progenitor in the dorsal neural tube (NT) in vivo, as revealed by single cell electroporations into the dorsal NT. Thus, specification of chromaffin cells is likely to occur after cell emigration either during migration or close to colonization of the target regions. Mechanisms underlying the specification of chromaffin cells vs. sympathetic neurons are currently being explored.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)324-329
Number of pages6
JournalMechanisms of Development
Issue number6-8
StatePublished - 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Barbara Brühl, Jutta Fey, Richard Hertel, Lidia Koschny and all PhD and MD students, who have contributed to these studies in Heidelberg and Freiburg, and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft for generous funding through SFB 488 A6 and SFB 592 A23 .


  • Cell fate specification
  • Glucocorticoid signaling
  • Neural crest
  • SA cell lineage
  • Transcription factors


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