Neural crest cell interactions and the creation of the cranial ganglia
Once neural crest cells become migratory, they associate with other cell types, such as placode cells, to form specific derivatives, including the cranial trigeminal ganglia. The proteins responsible for mediating these associations remained elusive until we identified critical players involved in this process. We have now shown that migratory neural crest cells express αN-catenin and Cadherin-7 (Cad7) during their interactions with placode cells, and that αN-catenin levels must be tightly controlled to allow for productive neural crest-placode cell associations. Using innovative tools, such as photo morpholinos and inducible expression constructs, as well as novel biochemical approaches, we aim to identify and characterize the types of cellular junctions that exist between neural crest cells, placode cells, and the extracellular environment in order to properly form the cranial ganglia.