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Keywords:

  • E-cadherin;
  • N-cadherin;
  • Snail-2;
  • Zeb-2;
  • Sox-2;
  • epithelium-to-mesenchyme transition;
  • neural induction;
  • neurulation;
  • neural tube;
  • neural crest;
  • chick embryo

Abstract

Background: During embryonic development, cadherin switches are correlated with tissue remodelings, such as epithelium-to-mesenchyme transition (EMT). An E- to N-cadherin switch also occurs during neurogenesis, but this is not accompanied with EMT. The biological significance of this switch is currently unknown. Results: We analyzed the timing and kinetics of the E- to N-cadherin switch during early neural induction and neurulation in the chick embryo, in relation to the patterns of their transcriptional regulators. We found that deployment of the E- to N-cadherin switch program varies considerably along the embryonic axis. Rostrally in regions of primary neurulation, it occurs progressively both in time and space in a manner that appears neither in connection with morphological transformation of neural epithelial cells nor in synchrony with movements of neurulation. Caudally, in regions of secondary neurulation, neurogenesis was not associated with cadherin switch as N-cadherin pre-existed before formation of the neural tube. We also found that, during neural development, cadherin switch is orchestrated by a set of transcriptional regulators distinct from those involved in EMT. Conclusions: Our results indicate that cadherin switch correlates with the partition of the neurectoderm into its three main populations: ectoderm, neural crest, and neural tube. Developmental Dynamics 241:1333–1349, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.