The autonomic nervous system, which includes the sympathetic neurons and adrenal medulla, originates from the neural crest. Combining avian blood vessel-specific gene manipulation and mouse genetics, we addressed a long-standing question of how neural crest cells (NCCs) generate sympathetic and medullary lineages during embryogenesis. We found that the dorsal aorta acts as a morphogenetic signaling center that coordinates NCC migration and cell lineage segregation. Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) produced by the dorsal aorta are critical for the production of the chemokine stromal cell-derived factor-1 (SDF 1) and Neuregulin 1 in the para-aortic region, which act as chemoattractants for early migration. Later, BMP signaling is directly involved in the sympatho-medullary segregation. This study provides insights into the complex developmental signaling cascade that instructs one of the earliest events of neurovascular interactions guiding embryonic development.
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