Instructive Role of Wnt/ß-Catenin in Sensory Fate Specification in Neural Crest Stem Cells

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Science  13 Feb 2004:
Vol. 303, Issue 5660, pp. 1020-1023
DOI: 10.1126/science.1091611

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Wnt signaling has recently emerged as a key factor in controlling stem cell expansion. In contrast, we show here that Wnt/β-catenin signal activation in emigrating neural crest stem cells (NCSCs) has little effect on the population size and instead regulates fate decisions. Sustained β-catenin activity in neural crest cells promotes the formation of sensory neural cells in vivo at the expense of virtually all other neural crest derivatives. Moreover, Wnt1 is able to instruct early NCSCs (eNCSCs) to adopt a sensory neuronal fate in a β-catenin–dependent manner. Thus, the role of Wnt/β-catenin in stem cells is cell-type dependent.

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