Genes, lineages and the neural crest: a speculative review

David J. Anderson

Abstract

Sensory and sympathetic neurons are generated from the trunk neural crest. The prevailing view has been that these two classes of neurons are derived from a common neural crest–derived progenitor that chooses between neuronal fates only after migrating to sites of peripheral ganglion formation. Here I reconsider this view in the light of new molecular and genetic data on the differentiation of sensory and autonomic neurons. These data raise several paradoxes when taken in the context of classical studies of the timing and spatial patterning of sensory and autonomic ganglion formation. These paradoxes can be most easily resolved by assuming that the restriction of neural crest cells to either sensory or autonomic lineages occurs at a very early stage, either before and/or shortly after they exit the neural tube.