We've updated our Privacy Policy to make it clearer how we use your personal data.

We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. You can read our Cookie Policy here.

Advertisement
Stem Cell Discovery Reveals Versatility of Crest Cells
News

Stem Cell Discovery Reveals Versatility of Crest Cells

Stem Cell Discovery Reveals Versatility of Crest Cells
News

Stem Cell Discovery Reveals Versatility of Crest Cells

Confocal microscopy image of an adult zebrafish head with neural crest-derived cells in red. The Crump lab has used single-cell sequencing to understand how these cells build and repair the head skeleton, with implications for understanding human craniofacial birth defects and improving repair of skeletal tissues. (Image by Hung-Jhen Chen/Crump Lab)
Read time:
 

Want a FREE PDF version of This News Story?

Complete the form below and we will email you a PDF version of "Stem Cell Discovery Reveals Versatility of Crest Cells"

First Name*
Last Name*
Email Address*
Country*
Company Type*
Job Function*
Would you like to receive further email communication from Technology Networks?

Technology Networks Ltd. needs the contact information you provide to us to contact you about our products and services. You may unsubscribe from these communications at any time. For information on how to unsubscribe, as well as our privacy practices and commitment to protecting your privacy, check out our Privacy Policy

Cranial neural crests cells, or CNCCs, contribute to many more body parts than their humble name suggests. These remarkable stem cells not only form most of the skull and facial skeleton in all vertebrates ranging from fish to humans, but also can generate everything from gills to the cornea. To understand this versatility, scientists from the lab of Gage Crump created a series of atlases over time to understand the molecular decisions by which CNCCs commit to forming specific tissues in developing zebrafish. Their findings, published in Nature Communications, may provide new insights into normal head development, as well as craniofacial birth defects.


“CNCCs have long fascinated biologists by the incredible diversity of cell types they can generate. By studying this process in the genetically tractable zebrafish, we have identified many of the potential switches that allow CNCCs to form these very different cell types,” said Gage Crump, professor of stem cell biology and regenerative medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.


Led by postdoc Peter Fabian and PhD students Kuo-Chang Tseng, Mathi Thiruppathy and Claire Arata, the team of scientists permanently labeled CNCCs with a red fluorescent protein to keep track of which cell types came from CNCCs throughout the lifetime of zebrafish. They then used a powerful type of approach, known as “single-cell genomics,” to identify the complete set of active genes and the organization of the DNA across hundreds of thousands of individual CNCCs. The massive quantity of data generated required the scientists to develop a new computational tool to make sense of it.


“We created a type of computational analysis that we called ‘Constellations,’ because the final visual output of the technique is reminiscent of constellations of stars in the sky,” said Fabian. “In contrast to astrology, our Constellations algorithm really can predict the future of cells and reveal the key genes that likely control their development.”

Through this new bioinformatic approach, the team discovered that CNCCs do not start out with all the information required to make the huge diversity of cell types. Instead, only after they disperse throughout the embryo do CNCCs begin reorganizing their genetic material in preparation for becoming specific tissues. Constellations accurately identified genetic signs that point to these specific destinies for CNCCs. Real-life experiments confirmed that Constellations correctly pinpointed the role of a family of “FOX” genes in facial cartilage formation, and a previously unappreciated function for “GATA” genes in the formation of gill respiratory cell types that allow fish to breathe.


“By conducting one of the most comprehensive single-cell studies of a vertebrate cell population to date, we not only gained significant insights into the development of the vertebrate head, but also created a broadly useful computational tool for studying the development and regeneration of organ systems throughout the body,” said Crump.


Reference: 


Fabian P, Tseng KC, Thiruppathy M, et al. Lifelong single-cell profiling of cranial neural crest diversification in zebrafish. Nat Commun. 2022;13(1):13. doi:10.1038/s41467-021-27594-w

This article has been republished from the following materials. Note: material may have been edited for length and content. For further information, please contact the cited source.

Advertisement