Neural crest cells leave the hindbrain, enter the gut mesenchyme at the pharynx, and migrate as strands of cells to the terminal bowel to form the enteric nervous system. We generated embryos containing fluorescent enteric neural crest-derived cells (ENCCs) by mating Wnt1-Cre mice with Rosa-floxed-YFP mice and investigated ENCC behavior in the intact gut of mouse embryos using time-lapse fluorescent microscopy. With respect to the entire gut, we have found that ENCCs in the cecum and proximal colon behave uniquely. ENCCs migrating caudally through either the ileum, or caudal colon, are gradually advancing populations of strands displaying largely unpredictable local trajectories. However, in the cecum, advancing ENCCs pause for approximately 12 h, and then display an invariable pattern of migration to distinct regions of the cecum and proximal colon. In addition, while most ENCCs migrating through other regions of the gut remain interconnected as strands; ENCCs initially migrating through the cecum and proximal colon fragment from the main population and advance as isolated single cells. These cells aggregate into groups isolated from the main network, and eventually extend strands themselves to reestablish a network in the mid-colon. As the advancing network of ENCCs reaches the terminal bowel, strands of sacral crest cells extend, and intersect with vagal crest to bridge the small space between. We found a relationship between ENCC number, interaction, and migratory behavior by utilizing endogenously isolated strands and by making cuts along the ENCC wavefront. Depending on the number of cells, the ENCCs aggregated, proliferated, and extended strands to advance the wavefront. Our results show that interactions between ENCCs are important for regulating behaviors necessary for their advancement. © 2005 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Druckenbrod, N. R., & Epstein, M. L. (2005). The pattern of neural crest advance in the cecum and colon. Developmental Biology, 287(1), 125–133. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ydbio.2005.08.040