Sympathetic neurons and chromaffin cells share a common progenitor in the neural crest in vivo

Stella Shtukmaster, Marie Catherine Schier, Katrin Huber, Shlomo Krispin, Chaya Kalcheim*, Klaus Unsicker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Background: The neural crest (NC) is a transient embryonic structure unique to vertebrates, which generates peripheral sensory and autonomic neurons, glia, neuroendocrine chromaffin and thyroid C-cells, melanocytes, and mesenchymal derivatives such as parts of the skull, heart, and meninges. The sympathoadrenal (SA) cell lineage is one major sub-lineage of the NC that gives rise to sympathetic neurons, chromaffin cells, and the intermediate small intensely fluorescent (SIF) cells. A key question is when during NC ontogeny do multipotent progenitors segregate into the different NC-derived lineages. Recent evidence suggested that sympathetic, sensory, and melanocyte progenitors delaminate from the thoracic neural tube (NT) in successive, largely non-overlapping waves and that at least certain NC progenitors are already fate-restricted within the NT. Whether sympathetic neurons and chromaffin cells, suggested by cell culture studies to share a common progenitor, are also fate segregated in ovo prior to emigration, is not known.Results: We have conducted single cell electroporations of a GFP-encoding plasmid into the dorsal midline of E2 chick NTs at the adrenomedullary level of the NC. Analysis of their derivatives, performed at E6, revealed that in most cases, labelled progeny was detected in both sympathetic ganglia and adrenal glands, where cells co-expressed characteristic marker combinations.Conclusions: Our results show that sympathetic neurons and adrenal chromaffin cells share a common progenitor in the NT. Together with previous findings we suggest that phenotypic diversification of these sublineages is likely to occur after delamination from the NT and prior to target encounter.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number12
JournalNeural Development
Issue number1
StatePublished - 18 Jun 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Ute Bauer, Günter Frank, Helmut Gerlach, Lidia Koschny, Ulla Hinz, and Ute Lausch for excellent technical assistance. We thank Dr Angela Naumann, Center for Biological Systems Analysis, for help with confocal microscopy. This work was supported by grants from Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft to K Unsicker and C Kalcheim (SFB 488 A6, and SFB 592 A23).


  • Chicken embryo
  • Chromaffin cells
  • Neural crest
  • Single cell electroporation
  • Sympathetic neurons
  • Sympathoadrenal progenitors


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