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Stem Cells March 1, 2015; 33 (3): 674-85.
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Neural crest specification by inhibition of the ROCK/Myosin II pathway.

Kim K , Ossipova O , Sokol SY .

Neural crest is a population of multipotent progenitor cells that form at the border of neural and non-neural ectoderm in vertebrate embryos, and undergo epithelial-mesenchymal transition and migration. According to the traditional view, the neural crest is specified in early embryos by signaling molecules including BMP, FGF, and Wnt proteins. Here, we identify a novel signaling pathway leading to neural crest specification, which involves Rho-associated kinase (ROCK) and its downstream target nonmuscle Myosin II. We show that ROCK inhibitors promote differentiation of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) into neural crest-like progenitors (NCPs) that are characterized by specific molecular markers and ability to differentiate into multiple cell types, including neurons, chondrocytes, osteocytes, and smooth muscle cells. Moreover, inhibition of Myosin II was sufficient for generating NCPs at high efficiency. Whereas Myosin II has been previously implicated in the self-renewal and survival of hESCs, we demonstrate its role in neural crest development during ESC differentiation. Inhibition of this pathway in Xenopus embryos expanded neural crest in vivo, further indicating that neural crest specification is controlled by ROCK-dependent Myosin II activity. We propose that changes in cell morphology in response to ROCK and Myosin II inhibition initiate mechanical signaling leading to neural crest fates.

PubMed ID: 25346532
PMC ID: PMC4428345
Article link: Stem Cells
Grant support: [+]

Species referenced: Xenopus laevis
Genes referenced: rho rho.2

References [+] :
Acloque, Epithelial-mesenchymal transitions: the importance of changing cell state in development and disease. 2009, Pubmed