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Keywords:

  • specification;
  • melanoblast;
  • neural crest;
  • Mitf;
  • FoxD3;
  • differentiation

Summary

Melanocytes differentiate from the neural crest (NC), which is a transient population of cells that delaminates from the neural tube and migrates extensively throughout the embryo during vertebrate development. Melanoblast specification from NC precursors is a progressive process during which initially pluripotent cells become restricted to the melanogenic lineage and adopt the gene expression profile and morphology of melanocytes. This specification process is governed primarily by Wnt and BMP signaling molecules, although other signaling pathways, such as those activated by Kit and Endothelin 3, can also stimulate melanogenesis. The transcriptional repressor FoxD3 occupies a central role in melanocyte fate determination by repressing melanogenesis in premigratory NC cells and in other NC lineages.