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Keywords:

  • cranial neural crest (CNC) cell;
  • ectoderm;
  • endoderm;
  • evolution;
  • mesoderm;
  • mandible;
  • palate;
  • tooth development

Abstract

Craniofacial malformations are involved in three fourths of all congenital birth defects in humans, affecting the development of head, face, or neck. Tremendous progress in the study of craniofacial development has been made that places this field at the forefront of biomedical research. A concerted effort among evolutionary and developmental biologists, human geneticists, and tissue engineers has revealed important information on the molecular mechanisms that are crucial for the patterning and formation of craniofacial structures. Here, we highlight recent advances in our understanding of evo–devo as it relates to craniofacial morphogenesis, fate determination of cranial neural crest cells, and specific signaling pathways in regulating tissue–tissue interactions during patterning of craniofacial apparatus and the morphogenesis of tooth, mandible, and palate. Together, these findings will be beneficial for the understanding, treatment, and prevention of human congenital malformations and establish the foundation for craniofacial tissue regeneration. Developmental Dynamics 235:2353–2375, 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.