Early migratory rat neural crest cells express functional gap junctions: Evidence that neural crest cell survival requires junction function

Peter Bannerman, William Nichols, Susan Puhalla, Tracey Oliver, Marie Berman, David E Pleasure

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37 Scopus citations


Gap junctions mediate crucial intercellular interactions during development. This study provides evidence that early migrating rat neural crest cells assemble functional gap junctions, as demonstrated by dye transfer following microinjection of single cells, which were phenotypically identified as neural crest cells by their expression of the low- affinity nerve growth factor receptor. An immunohistochemical analysis using connexin- specific antibodies revealed that migrating rat neural crest cells express the gap junction constituents connexins 43 (Cx 43) and Cx 46. We tested the hypothesis that gap junctions play an important role during early neural crest cell development by perturbing their function in migrating neural crest cells. Our data show that markedly decreasing gap junction communication between these neural crest cells in vitro with either 18α-glycyrrhetinic acid or anandamide decreases their survival, whereas oleamide, a less effective blocker of connexon function, had quantitatively less effect on neural crest cell death. This cell death was associated with the occurrence of DNA nicking as detected by the terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase (TdT)-mediated dUTP-biotin nick end-labelling (TUNEL) procedure, suggesting cell death via apoptosis. The effect of 18α-glycyrrhetinic acid and anandamide on neural crest cell survival was reversible and was not mimicked by the structurally related compounds glycyrrhizic acid and palmitoylethanolamide, respectively, which do not uncouple cells. These results indicate that gap junctions are necessary for the survival of spinal neural crest cells. (C) 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)605-615
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neuroscience Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 15 2000
Externally publishedYes



  • Apoptosis
  • Connexins
  • Gap junctions
  • Neural crest cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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