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Keywords:

  • neural crest;
  • Xhairy2;
  • Foxd3;
  • Slug;
  • p27xic1;
  • X-Delta-1

Abstract

The neural crest is a population of mitotically active, multipotent progenitor cells that arise at the neural plate border. Neural crest progenitors must be maintained in a multipotent state until after neural tube closure. However, the molecular underpinnings of this process have yet to be fully elucidated. Here we show that the basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) transcriptional repressor gene, Xenopus hairy2 (Xhairy2), is an essential early regulator of neural crest formation in Xenopus. During gastrulation, Xhairy2 is localized at the presumptive neural crest prior to the expression of such neural crest markers as Slug and FoxD3. Morpholino-mediated knockdown of Xhairy2 results in the repression of neural crest marker gene expression while inducing the ectopic expression of the cell cycle inhibitor p27xic1 in the presumptive neural crest. We also found that ectopic p27xic1 disturbs neural crest formation. Furthermore, the depletion of Xhairy2 leads to the apoptosis of mitotic cells. Our results suggest that Xhairy2 functions in neural crest specification by maintaining cells in the mitotic and undifferentiated state. Developmental Dynamics 236:1475–1483, 2007. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.