Colonizing while migrating : how do individual enteric neural crest cells behave?

Young, Heather, Bergner, Annette, Simpson, Matthew, McKeown, Sonja, Anderson, Colin, & Enomoto, Hideki (2014) Colonizing while migrating : how do individual enteric neural crest cells behave? BMC Biology, 12(23).

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Directed cell migration is essential for normal development. In most of the migratory cell populations that have been analysed in detail to date, all of the cells migrate as a collective from one location to another. However, there are also migratory cell populations that must populate the areas through which they migrate, and thus some cells get left behind while others advance. Very little is known about how individual cells behave to achieve concomitant directional migration and population of the migratory route. We examined the behavior of enteric neural crest-derived cells (ENCCs), which must both advance caudally to reach the anal end and populate each gut region.


The behaviour of individual ENCCs was examined using live imaging and mice in which ENCCs express a photoconvertible protein. We show that individual ENCCs exhibit very variable directionalities and speed; as the migratory wavefront of ENCCs advances caudally, each gut region is populated primarily by some ENCCs migrating non-directionally. After populating each region, ENCCs remain migratory for at least 24 hours. Endothelin receptor type B (EDNRB) signaling is known to be essential for the normal advance of the ENCC population. We now show that perturbation of EDNRB principally affects individual ENCC speed rather than directionality. The trajectories of solitary ENCCs, which occur transiently at the wavefront, were consistent with an unbiased random walk and so cell-cell contact is essential for directional migration. ENCCs migrate in close association with neurites. We showed that although ENCCs often use neurites as substrates, ENCCs lead the way, neurites are not required for chain formation and neurite growth is more directional than the migration of ENCCs as a whole.


Each gut region is initially populated by sub-populations of ENCCs migrating non-directionally, rather than stopping. This might provide a mechanism for ensuring a uniform density of ENCCs along the growing gut.

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ID Code: 69531
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Collective cell migration, Neural Crest, Directional Migration, Enteric Nervous System
DOI: 10.1186/1741-7007-12-23
ISSN: 1741-7007
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MATHEMATICAL SCIENCES (010000) > APPLIED MATHEMATICS (010200) > Biological Mathematics (010202)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES (060000) > BIOCHEMISTRY AND CELL BIOLOGY (060100) > Cell Development Proliferation and Death (060103)
Divisions: Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > Schools > School of Mathematical Sciences
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Science & Engineering Faculty
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2014 Young et al.
Copyright Statement: This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.
Deposited On: 28 Mar 2014 03:57
Last Modified: 01 Apr 2014 05:07

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