Normal and abnormal pathfinding of facial nerve fibers in the chick embryo



Development of the facial nerve was studied in normal chicken embryos and after surgical disruption of ingrowing sensory facial nerve fibers at 38–72 h of incubation. Disruption of facial nerve fibers by otocyst removal often induced a rostral deviation of the facial nerve and ganglion to the level of the trigeminal ganglion. Cell bodies of the geniculate ganglion trailed their deviating neurites and occupied an abnormal rostral position adjacent to the trigeminal ganglion. Deviating facial nerve fibers were labeled with the carbocyanine fluorescent tracer Dil in fixed tissue. Labeled fibers penetrated the cranium adjacent to the trigeminal ganglion, but they did not follow the trigeminal nerve fibers into the brain stem. Rather, after entering the cranium, they projected caudally to their usual site of entrance and proceeded towards their normal targets. This rostral deviation of the facial nerve was observed only after surgery at 48–72 h of incubation, but not in cases with early otocyst removal (38–48 h). A rostral deviation of the facial nerve was seen in cases with partial otocyst removal when the vestibular nerve was absent. The facial nerve followed its normal course when the vestibular nerve persisted. We conclude that disruption of the devloping facial pathway altered the routes of navigating axons, but did not prevent pathfinding and innervation of the normal targets. Pathfinding abilities may not be restricted to pioneering axons of the facial nerve; later-developing facial nerve fibers also appeared to have positional information. Our findings are consistent with the hypothesis that navigating axons may respond to multiple guidance cues during development. These cues appear to differ as a function of position of the navigating axon. © 1992 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.