• gut;
  • skin;
  • melanocyte;
  • neural crest;
  • development


The development of melanocytes from neural crest-derived precursors that migrate along the dorsolateral pathway has been attributed to the selection of this route by cells that are fate-restricted to the melanocyte lineage. Alternatively, melanocytes could arise from nonspecified cells that develop in response to signals encountered while these cells migrate, or at their final destinations. In most animals, the bowel, which is colonized by crest-derived cells that migrate through the caudal branchial arches, contains no melanocytes; however, the enteric microenvironment does not prevent melanocytes from developing from crest-derived precursors placed experimentally into the bowel wall. To test the hypothesis that the branchial arches remove the melanogenic potential from the crest-derived population that colonizes the gut, the Silky fowl (in which the viscera are pigmented) was studied. Sources of crest included Silky fowl and quail vagal and truncal neural folds/tubes, which were cultured or explanted to chorioallantoic membranes alone or together with branchial arches or limb buds from Silky fowl, White Leghorn, or quail embryos. Crest and mesenchyme-derived cells were distinguished by using the quail nuclear marker. Melanocytes developed from Silky fowl and quail crest-derived cells. Melanocyte development from both sources was inhibited by quail and White Leghorn branchial arches (and limb buds), but melanocyte development was unaffected by branchial arch (and limb buds) from Silky fowl. These observations suggest that a factor(s) that is normally expressed in the branchial arches, and is lacking in animals with the Silky mutation, prevents cells with a melanogenic potential from colonizing the bowel. Anat Rec 268:16–26, 2002. © 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.