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Keywords:

  • neural crest;
  • enteric neurons;
  • cell migration;
  • differentiation;
  • development and enteric nervous system

Abstract

The enteric nervous system arises predominantly from vagal level neural crest cells that migrate into the foregut and then colonize the entire length of the gastrointestinal tract. Previous studies have demonstrated that glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) promotes the migration of enteric neural crest-derived cells (ENCs) in vitro, but a role for GDNF in the migration of ENCs in vivo has yet to be demonstrated. In this study, the effects of Gdnf haploinsufficiency on ENC rate of migration and number during mid embryonic development were examined. Although the entire gut of embryonic Gdnf+/− mice was colonized, a significant delay in the migration of ENCs along the embryonic hindgut was found. However, significant effects of Gdnf haploinsufficiency on ENC number were detected before the stage at which migration defects were first evident. As previous studies have shown a relationship between ENC number and migration, the effects of Gdnf haploinsufficiency on migration may be due to an indirect effect on cell number and/or a direct effect of GDNF on ENC migration. Gdnf haploinsufficiency did not cause any detectable change in the rate of neuronal differentiation of ENCs. Developmental Dynamics 236:134–141, 2007. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.