Neural Crest - Peripheral Nervous System

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Human embryo neural crest cells (stage 11)

The neural crest are bilaterally paired strips of cells arising in the ectoderm at the margins of the neural tube. These cells migrate to many different locations and differentiate into many cell types within the embryo. This means that many different systems (neural, skin, teeth, head, face, heart, adrenal glands, gastrointestinal tract) will also have a contribution fron the neural crest cells.

In the body region, neural crest cells also contribute the peripheral nervous system (both neurons and glia) consisting of sensory ganglia (dorsal root ganglia), sympathetic and parasympathetic ganglia and neural plexuses within specific tissues/organs.

In the head region, neural crest cells migrate into the pharyngeal arches (as shown in movie below) forming ectomesenchyme contributing tissues which in the body region are typically derived from mesoderm (cartilage, bone, and connective tissue).General neural development is also covered in Neural Notes.

Neural Crest Links: Introduction | Lecture - Early Neural | Lecture - Neural Crest Development | Schwann | Adrenal Gland | Melanocyte | Peripheral Nervous System | Enteric Nervous System | Cornea | Cranial Nerves | Cardiac | Nicole Le Douarin | Neural Crest Movies | Abnormalities | Category:Neural Crest

Some Recent Findings

  • Neuronal differentiation in the developing human spinal ganglia[1] "The spatiotemporal developmental pattern of the neural crest cells differentiation towards the first appearance of the neuronal subtypes was investigated in developing human spinal ganglia between the 5th -10th developmental week using immunohistochemistry and immunofluorescence methods. First NF200 (neurofilament-200, likely-myelinated mechanoreceptors) and isolectin-B4 positive neurons (likely-unmyelinated nociceptors) appeared already in the 5/6th developmental week and their number subsequently increased during progression of development. Proportion of NF200 positive cells was higher in the ventral parts of the spinal ganglia than in the dorsal parts, particularly during the 5/6th and 9/10th developmental weeks (Mann-Whitney, p=0.040 and p=0.003). NF200 and IB4 co-localized during the whole investigated period. Calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP, nociceptive responses), vanilloid-receptor-1 (VR1, polymodal nociceptors) and calretinin (calcium signalling) cell immunoreactivity first appeared in the 6th and 8th week, respectively, especially in the dorsal parts of the spinal ganglia. VR1 and CGRP co-localized with NF00 during the whole investigated period. Our results indicate the high potential of early differentiated neuronal cells, which slightly decreased with progression of spinal ganglia differentiation. On the contrary, the number of neuronal subtypes displayed increasing differentiation at later developmental stage."
  • The role of the transcription factor Rbpj in the development of dorsal root ganglia[2] "The dorsal root ganglion (DRG) is composed of well-characterized populations of sensory neurons and glia derived from a common pool of neural crest stem cells (NCCs), and is a good system to study the mechanisms of neurogenesis and gliogenesis. Notch signaling is known to play important roles in DRG development, but the full scope of Notch functions in mammalian DRG development remains poorly understood."
  • Cranial neural crest migration: new rules for an old road.[3] "In this review, we discuss recent cellular and molecular discoveries of the CNCC migratory pattern. We focus on events from the time when CNCCs encounter the tissue adjacent to the neural tube and their travel through different microenvironments and into the branchial arches. We describe the patterning of discrete cell migratory streams that emerge from the hindbrain, rhombomere (r) segments r1-r7, and the signals that coordinate directed migration."
More recent papers
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Search term: Peripheral Nervous System Development

Zhifeng Gao, Yi Feng, Hui Ju The Different Dynamic Changes of Nerve Growth Factor in the Dorsal Horn and Dorsal Root Ganglion Leads to Hyperalgesia and Allodynia in Diabetic Neuropathic Pain. Pain Physician: 2017, 20(4);E551-E561 PubMed 28535564

John Alimamy Kabba, Yazhou Xu, Handson Christian, Wenchen Ruan, Kitchen Chenai, Yun Xiang, Luyong Zhang, Juan M Saavedra, Tao Pang Microglia: Housekeeper of the Central Nervous System. Cell. Mol. Neurobiol.: 2017; PubMed 28534246

N Vaes, M H F M Lentjes, M J Gijbels, G Rademakers, K L Daenen, W Boesmans, K A D Wouters, A Geuzens, X Qu, H P J Steinbusch, B P F Rutten, S H Baldwin, K A Sharkey, R M W Hofstra, M van Engeland, P Vanden Berghe, V Melotte NDRG4, an early detection marker for colorectal cancer, is specifically expressed in enteric neurons. Neurogastroenterol. Motil.: 2017; PubMed 28524415

Han-Seop Kim, Jungwoon Lee, Da Yong Lee, Young-Dae Kim, Jae Yun Kim, Hyung Jin Lim, Sungmin Lim, Yee Sook Cho Schwann Cell Precursors from Human Pluripotent Stem Cells as a Potential Therapeutic Target for Myelin Repair. Stem Cell Reports: 2017; PubMed 28506533

Marzia Malcangio GABAB receptors and pain. Neuropharmacology: 2017; PubMed 28504122

Neural Crest Migration

Movie Source: Original Neural Crest movies kindly provided by Paul Kulesa.[4]

Related Movies: Migration 01 | Migration 02 | Migration 03 | Migration 04 | Migration 05 | Migration 06 | Migration 07

Development Overview

The following cranial and trunk data is based upon 185 serially sectioned staged (Carnegie) human embryos.[5]

Cranial Neural Crest

  • stage 9 - an indication of mesencephalic neural crest
  • stage 10 - trigeminal, facial, and postotic components
  • stage 11 - crest-free zones are soon observable in rhombomere 1, 3, and 5
  • stage 12 - rhombomeres 6 and 7 neural crest migrate to pharyngeal arch 3 and then rostrad to the truncus arteriosus
  • stage 13 - nasal crest and the terminalis-vomeronasal complex are last of the cranial crest to appear

stages 9-14 - otic vesicle primordium descends

Trunk Neural Crest

Spinal ganglia increase in number over time and are in phase with the somites, though not their centre. There are 3 migratory pathways: ventrolateral between dermatomyotome and sclerotome, ventromedial between neural tube and sclerotomes, and lateral between surface ectoderm and dermatomyotome.

  • stage 13 - about 19 present
  • stage 14 - about 33 present
  • stage 15-23 - 30–35 ganglia


  1. Katarina Vukojevic, Natalija Filipovic, Ivana Tica Sedlar, Ivana Restovic, Ivana Bocina, Irena Pintaric, Mirna Saraga-Babic Neuronal differentiation in the developing human spinal ganglia. Anat Rec (Hoboken): 2016; PubMed 27225905
  2. Ze-Lan Hu, Ming Shi, Ying Huang, Min-Hua Zheng, Zhe Pei, Jia-Yin Chen, Hua Han, Yu-Qiang Ding The role of the transcription factor Rbpj in the development of dorsal root ganglia. Neural Dev: 2011, 6;14 PubMed 21510873
  3. Paul M Kulesa, Caleb M Bailey, Jennifer C Kasemeier-Kulesa, Rebecca McLennan Cranial neural crest migration: new rules for an old road. Dev. Biol.: 2010, 344(2);543-54 PubMed 20399765
  4. P M Kulesa, S E Fraser In ovo time-lapse analysis of chick hindbrain neural crest cell migration shows cell interactions during migration to the branchial arches. Development: 2000, 127(6);1161-72 PubMed 10683170
  5. Ronan O'Rahilly, Fabiola Müller The development of the neural crest in the human. J. Anat.: 2007, 211(3);335-51 PubMed 17848161 | PMC2375817 | J Anat.


Shlomo Krispin, Erez Nitzan, Chaya Kalcheim The dorsal neural tube: a dynamic setting for cell fate decisions. Dev Neurobiol: 2010, 70(12);796-812 PubMed 20683859

Uwe Ernsberger Role of neurotrophin signalling in the differentiation of neurons from dorsal root ganglia and sympathetic ganglia. Cell Tissue Res.: 2009, 336(3);349-84 PubMed 19387688

Harvey B Sarnat, Laura Flores-Sarnat Embryology of the neural crest: its inductive role in the neurocutaneous syndromes. J. Child Neurol.: 2005, 20(8);637-43 PubMed 16225807

Hsiao-Huei Chen, Simon Hippenmeyer, Silvia Arber, Eric Frank Development of the monosynaptic stretch reflex circuit. Curr. Opin. Neurobiol.: 2003, 13(1);96-102 PubMed 12593987

A Schober, K Unsicker Growth and neurotrophic factors regulating development and maintenance of sympathetic preganglionic neurons. Int. Rev. Cytol.: 2001, 205;37-76 PubMed 11336393


Search PubMed

Search Pubmed: Peripheral Neural Development | Dorsal Root Ganglia Development | Sympathetic Neural Development | Parasympathetic Neural Development | Neural Crest Development

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Cite this page: Hill, M.A. 2017 Embryology Neural Crest - Peripheral Nervous System. Retrieved May 25, 2017, from

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