The microenvironment created by grafting rostral half-somites is mitogenic for neural crest cells

Ronald S. Goldstein, Marie Aimée Teillet, Chaya Kalcheim*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Chicken embryo neural crest cells that migrate into a paraxial mesoderm constructed of multiple rostral half-somites from quail embryos form unsegmented "polyganglia," instead of distinct dorsal root ganglia (DRG). We report here that the environment that is created by grafting rostral somitic (RS) moieties not only is permissive for neural crest cell migration and consequent DRG formation but also is mitogenic for the DRG precursor cells. On embryonic day 3.5 (E3.5), 1 day after surgery, there is a 42% average increase in volume of the poly ganglia compared with the corresponding DRG on the unoperated side. The volume increase is accounted for by an increased number of DRG cells - an average of 46% more cells are found in the polyganglia. The increases in volume and cell number are still present a day later at E4.5 (38% and 52%, respectively) and are observed in both limb-forming and non-limb-forming regions of the embryonic axis. The mechanism for this increase in cell number and volume in the polyganglia is enhanced proliferative activity. On E3.5 the proportion of cells incorporating thymidine of the total DRG cell number is 45% higher in the polyganglia than the control side, when embryos are given a short pulse before sacrifice. This indicates that the rostral sclerotomal environment stimulates the crest cells to proliferate. The difference in volume between the polyganglia and the normal DRG continues to grow until at least E8, when the polyganglia are twice as large as the control DRG. The continued increase in volume can also be accounted for by the mitogenic effect of the RS grafts, since on E4.5 the percentage of thymidine-labeled cells compared with the total cell number in DRG is 28% higher in the polyganglia than in control ganglia. This study demonstrates that the somitic microenvironment regulates the proliferation of neural crest cells in the nascent DRG.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)4476-4480
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number12
StatePublished - 1990


  • Avian embryo
  • Dorsal root ganglia
  • Mitogenesis
  • Sclerotome
  • Segmentation


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