Int. J. Dev. Biol. 40: 695 - 707 (1996)
© UPV/EHU Press

What insights into the phenomena of cell fate determination and cell migration has the study of the urodele neural crest provided?

H H Epperlein and J Löfberg

Anatomisches Institut, Technische Universität Dresden, Germany. hhepp@rcs.urz.tu-dresden.de

ABSTRACT In this review we ask whether studies on the development of the urodele neural crest (NC) have provided special insights into the fate and migration of these cells when compared to other amphibian embryos or those of higher vertebrates. We recognize that during the first half of this century and even before, urodele embryos were the favorite objects of experimental embryology for studying the development of mesenchymal derivatives and their participation, together with mesodermal mesenchyme, in the development of the neuro- and viscerocranium. Furthermore, the NC was discovered to be the source of cranial sensory and spinal ganglia, and the influence of the somites on the localization of the latter was clearly pointed out. In addition, pioneering studies were devoted to the NC-derived pigment cells. Investigations in this field concentrated on their migration in the embryo and in vitro, and on the mechanisms underlying larval pigment pattern formation. It is mainly in these three areas that the urodele embryo has served as a tool for gaining major results and defining the concepts of classical embryology. Even today, when the interest has shifted towards the molecular biology in Xenopus, chicks and mice, the urodele embryo with its large cells, convenient for injections, is a potential model for future lineage studies and knockout experiments. And furthermore, as important concepts of vertebrate development are defined in the urodele, future studies in these embryos may link the disciplines of development and evolution.