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Keywords:

  • nervus terminalis;
  • cranial nerve;
  • origin;
  • migration

Abstract

The origin of the nervus terminalis is one of the least well understood developmental events involved in generating the cranial ganglia of the forebrain in vertebrate animals. This cranial nerve forms at the formidable interface of the anteriormost limits of migrating cranial neural crest cells, the terminal end of the neural tube and the differentiating olfactory and adenohypophyseal placodes. The complex cellular interactions that give rise to the various structures associated with the sensory placode (olfactory) and endocrine placode (adenohypophysis) surround and engulf this enigmatic cranial nerve. The tortured history of nervus terminalis development (see von Bartheld, this issue, pages 13–24) reflects the lack of consensus on the origin (or origins), as well as the experimental difficulties in uncovering the origin, of the nervus terminalis. Recent technical advances have allowed us to make headway in understanding the origin(s) of this nerve. The emergence of the externally fertilized zebrafish embryo as a model system for developmental biology and genetics has shed new light on this century-old problem. Coupled with new developmental models are techniques that allow us to trace lineage, visualize gene expression, and genetically ablate cells, adding to our experimental tools with which to follow up on studies provided by our scientific predecessors. Through these techniques, a picture is emerging in which the origin of at least a subset of the nervus terminalis cells lies in the cranial neural crest. In this review, the data surrounding this finding will be discussed in light of recent findings on neural crest and placode origins. Microsc. Res. Tech. 65:2–12, 2004. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.