The Contribution of the Neural Crest to the Vertebrate Body

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As a transitory structure providing adult tissues of the vertebrates with very diverse cell types, the neural crest (NC) has attracted for long the interest of developmental biologists and is still the subject of ongoing research in a variety of animal models. Here we review a number of data from in vivo cell tracing and in vitro single cell culture experiments, which gained new insights on the mechanisms of cell migration, proliferation and differentiation during NC ontogeny. We put emphasis on the role of Hox genes, morphogens and interactions with neighbouring tissues in specifying and patterning the skeletogenic NC cells in the head. We also include advances made towards characterizing multipotent stem cells in the early NC as well as in various NC derivatives in embryos and even in adult.