Disruption of segmental neural crest migration and ephrin expression in Delta-1 null mice

Neural crest cells migrate segmentally through the rostral half of each trunk somite due to inhibitory influences of ephrins and other molecules present in the caudal-half of somites. To examine the potential role of Notch/Delta signaling in establishing the segmental distribution of ephrins, we examined neural crest migration and ephrin expression in Delta-1 mutant mice. Using Sox-10 as a marker, we noted that neural crest cells moved through both rostral and caudal halves of the somites in mutants, consistent with the finding that ephrinB2 levels are significantly reduced in the caudal-half somites. Later, mutant embryos had aberrantly fused and/or reduced dorsal root and sympathetic ganglia, with a marked diminution in peripheral glia. These results show that Delta-1 is essential for proper migration and differentiation of neural crest cells. Interestingly, absence of Delta-1 leads to diminution of both neurons and glia in peripheral ganglia, suggesting a general depletion of the ganglion precursor pool in mutant mice.