Ultrastructural and tissue-culture studies on the role of fibronectin, collagen and glycosaminoglycans in the migration of neural crest cells in the fowl embryo

D. F. Newgreen, I. L. Gibbins, J. Sauter, B. Wallenfels, R. Wütz

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118 Citations (Scopus)


The initial migration of neural crest (NC) cells into cell-free space was studied by transmission electron microscopy at trunk levels of fowl embryos, some of which were fixed in the presence of ruthenium red. Migrating NC cells occurred in zones which contained fewer ruthenium-red stained 15-40 nm diameter granules than other regions. The ruthenium-red stained granules were linked by similarly stained thin ({slanted equal to or greater-than} 3 nm diameter) microfibrils. The granules resemble proteoglycan and the microfibrils may be hyaluronate. NC cells contacted thicker ({slanted equal to or greater-than} 10 nm diameter) fibrils and interstitial bodies, which did not require ruthenium red for visualization. Cytoplasmic microfilaments were sometimes aligned at the point of contact with the extracellular fibrils, which may be fibronectin and collagen. Phase-contrast time-lapse videotaping and scanning electron microscopy showed that NC cells of the fowl embryo in vitro migrated earlier and more extensively on glass coated with fibronectin-rich fibrous material and adsorbed fibronectin molecules than on glass coated with collagen type I (fibres and adsorbed molecules). NC cells became completely enmeshed in fibronectin-rich fibres, but generally remained on the surface of collagen-fibre gels. When given a choice, NC cells strongly preferred fibronectin coatings to plain glass, and plain glass to dried collagen gels. NC cells showed a slight preference for plain glass over glass to which collagen was adsorbed. Addition to the culture medium of hyaluronate (initial conc. 20 mg/ml), chondroitin (5 mg/ml) and fully sulphated chondroitin sulphate and dermatan sulphate (up to 10 mg/ml) did not drastically alter NC cell migration on fibronectin-rich fibrous substrates. However, partially desulphated chondroitin sulphate (5mg/ml) strongly retarded the migration of NC cells. The in vivo and in vitro studies suggest that fibronectin may dictate the pathways of NC cell migration by acting as a highly preferred physical substrate. However, the utilization of these pathways may be reduced by the presence of proteoglycans bearing undersulphated chondroitin sulphate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)521-549
Number of pages29
JournalCell and Tissue Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1982
Externally publishedYes


  • Cell migration
  • Collagen
  • Fibronectin
  • Glycosaminoglycans
  • Neural crest


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