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The epiblast of vertebrate embryos is comprised of neural and non-neural ectoderm, with the border territory at their intersection harbouring neural crest and cranial placode progenitors. Here we profile avian epiblast cells as a function of time using single-cell RNA-seq to define transcriptional changes in the emerging ‘neural plate border’. The results reveal gradual establishment of heterogeneous neural plate border signatures, including novel genes that we validate by fluorescent in situ hybridisation. Developmental trajectory analysis shows that segregation of neural plate border lineages only commences at early neurulation, rather than at gastrulation as previously predicted. We find that cells expressing the prospective neural crest marker Pax7 contribute to multiple lineages, and a subset of premigratory neural crest cells shares a transcriptional signature with their border precursors. Together, our results suggest that cells at the neural plate border remain heterogeneous until early neurulation, at which time progenitors become progressively allocated toward defined lineages.

Original publication




Journal article


Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

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