Date of Award

2008

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

Department

Biological Science

First Advisor

Dr. Lidia Kos

Abstract

Neural crest cells (NCC) are a unique population of cells in vertebrates that arise between the presumptive epidermis and the dorsal most region of the neural tube. During neurulation, NCC migrate to many regions of the body to give rise to a wide variety of cell types. NCC that originate from the neural tube at the levels of somite 1-7 colonize the gut and give rise to the enteric ganglia. The endothelin signaling pathway has been shown to be crucial for proper development of some neural crest derivatives. Mice and humans with mutations in the Endothelin receptor b (Ednrb) gene exhibit similar phenotypes characterized by hypopigmentation, hearing loss, and megacolon. Thesephenotypes are due to lack of melanocytes in the skin, inner ear and enteric ganglia in the distal portion of the colon, respectively. It is well established that Ednrb is required early during the embryonic development for normal innervation of the gut. However, it is not clear if Ednrb acts on enteric neuron precursor cells or in pre-committed NC precursors. Additionally, it is controversial whether the action of Ednrb is cell autonomous or non- autonomous. We generated transgenic mice that express Ednrb under the control of the Nestin second intron enhancer (Nes) which drives expression to pre-migrating NCC. These mice were crosses to the spontaneous mouse mutant piebald lethal, which carriers a null mutation in Ednrb and exhibits enteric aganglionosis. The Nes-Ednrb was capable of rescuing the aganglianosis phenotype of piebald lethal mutants demonstrating that expression of Ednrb in pre-committed precursors is sufficient for normal enteric ganglia development. This study provides insight in early embryonic development of NCC and could eventually have potential use in cellular therapies for Hirschsprung's disease.

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