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Parasympathetic ganglia derive from Schwann cell precursors

Science  04 Jul 2014:
Vol. 345, Issue 6192, pp. 87-90
DOI: 10.1126/science.1253286

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Exploiting nervous paths already traveled

The parasympathetic nervous system helps regulate the functions of many tissues and organs, including the salivary glands and the esophagus. To do so, it needs to reach throughout the body, connecting central systems to peripheral ones. Dyachuk et al. and Espinosa-Medina et al. explored how these connections are established in mice (see the Perspective by Kalcheim and Rohrer). Progenitor cells that travel along with the developing nerves can give rise to both myelinforming Schwann cells and to parasympathetic neurons. That means the interacting nerves do not have to find each other. Instead, the beginnings of the connections are laid down as the nervous system develops.

Science, this issue p. 82, p. 87; see also p. 32

Abstract

Neural crest cells migrate extensively and give rise to most of the peripheral nervous system, including sympathetic, parasympathetic, enteric, and dorsal root ganglia. We studied how parasympathetic ganglia form close to visceral organs and what their precursors are. We find that many cranial nerve-associated crest cells coexpress the pan-autonomic determinant Paired-like homeodomain 2b (Phox2b) together with markers of Schwann cell precursors. Some give rise to Schwann cells after down-regulation of PHOX2b. Others form parasympathetic ganglia after being guided to the site of ganglion formation by the nerves that carry preganglionic fibers, a parsimonious way of wiring the pathway. Thus, cranial Schwann cell precursors are the source of parasympathetic neurons during normal development.

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