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The anterior neural fold (ANF) is the only region of the neural tube that does not produce neural crest cells. Instead, ANF cells contribute to the olfactory and lens placodes, as well as to the forebrain and epidermis. Here, we test the ability of the ANF to form neural crest by performing heterotopic transplantation experiments in the chick embryo. We find that, at the neurula stage (HH stage 7), the chick ANF retains the ability to form migrating neural crest cells when transplanted caudally to rostral hindbrain levels. This ability is gradually lost, such that by HH9, this tissue appears to no longer have the potential to form neural crest. In contrast to the ANF, hindbrain dorsal neural folds transplanted rostrally fail to contribute to the olfactory placode but instead continue to generate neural crest cells. The transcription factor GANF is expressed in the ANF and its morpholino-mediated knock-down expands the neural crest domain rostrally and results in the production of migratory cells emerging from the ANF; however, these cells fail to express the HNK1 neural crest marker, suggesting only partial conversion. Our results show that environmental factors can imbue the chick anterior neural folds to assume a neural crest cell fate via a mechanism that partially involves loss of GANF.

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Maxellende Ezin, Meyer Barembaum, Marianne E. Bronner, Stage-dependent plasticity of the anterior neural folds to form neural crest, Differentiation, Volume 88, Issues 2–3, 2014, Pages 42-50, ISSN 0301-4681,

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