Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) is a common human genetic disease involving various neural crest (NC)‐derived cell types, in particular, Schwann cells and melanocytes. The gene responsible for NF1 encodes the protein neurofibromin, which contains a domain with amino acid sequence homology to the ras‐guanosine triphosphatase activating protein, suggesting that neurofibromin may play a role in intracellular signaling pathways regulating cellular proliferation or differentiation, or both. To determine whether neurofibromin plays a role in NC cell development, we used antibodies raised against human neurofibromin fusion proteins in western blot and immunocytochemical studies of early avian embryos. These antibodies specifically recognized the 235 kD chicken neurofibromin protein, which was expressed in migrating trunk and cranial NC cells of early embryos (E1.5 to E2), as well as in endothelial and smooth muscle cells of blood vessels and in a subpopulation of non‐NC‐derived cells in the dermamyotome. At slightly later stages (E3 to E5), neurofibromin immunostaining was observed in various NC derivatives, including dorsal root ganglia and peripheral nerves, as well as non‐NC‐derived cell types, including heart, skeletal muscle, and kidney. At still later stages (E7 to E9), neurofibromin immunoreactivity was found in almost all tissues in vivo. To determine whether the levels of neurofibromin changed during melanocyte and Schwann cell development, tissue culture experiments were performed. Cultured NC cells were found to express neurofibromin at early time points in culture, but the levels of immunoreactivity decreased as the cells underwent pigmentation. Schwann cells, on the other hand, continued to express neurofibromin in culture. These data suggest, therefore, that neurofibromin may play a role in the development of both NC cells and a variety of non‐NC‐derived tissues. © 1995 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
- Schwann cell
- avian embryo
- neural crest
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience