We describe here a new method for transferring genes into cells of the neural tube and neural crest of early avian embryos in vivo. Using the marker gene lacZ as an example, we infected dissected neural tubes from Hamburger‐Hamilton stage 12–13 quail embryos with a replication‐defective retrovirus carrying lacZ during a 2 hr period of exposure to the virus in culture. Infected neural tubes were then grafted into uninfected host chicken embryos in ovo and, after continued development for several days, the chimeric embryos were processed for β‐galactosidase histochemistry to identify the progeny of infected cells. We show that virus‐infected neural tubes grafted isotopically into the trunk region of host embryos gave rise to cells of both the spinal cord and neural crest. Infected neural crest cells localized within dorsal root ganglia, sympathetic ganglia, peripheral nerves, and within the skin, where they were likely to give rise to melanocytes. These data are consistent with those using other cell marking techniques applied to the neural crest, indicating that retrovirus infection in culture, grafting, and β‐galactosidase expression has a neutral effect on neural crest cell migration and localization. These results indicate the heterospecific grafting of early avian tissues infected with retroviruses carrying foreign genes may be an effective strategy for testing the biological role of various gene products during development. © 1993 Wiley‐Liss, Inc.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience