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Dual function of Slit2 in repulsion and enhanced migration of trunk, but not vagal, neural crest cells

Neural crest precursors to the autonomic nervous system form different derivatives depending upon their axial level of origin; for example, vagal, but not trunk, neural crest cells form the enteric ganglia of the gut. Here, we show that Slit2 is expressed at the entrance of the gut, which is selectively invaded by vagal, but not trunk, neural crest. Accordingly, only trunk neural crest cells express Robo receptors. In vivo and in vitro experiments demonstrate that trunk, not vagal, crest cells avoid cells or cell membranes expressing Slit2, thereby contributing to the differential ability of neural crest populations to invade and innervate the gut. Conversely, exposure to soluble Slit2 significantly increases the distance traversed by trunk neural crest cells. These results suggest that Slit2 can act bifunctionally, both repulsing and stimulating the motility of trunk neural crest cells.

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