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The neural crest is a multipotent stem cell-like population that is induced during gastrulation, but only acquires its characteristic morphology, migratory ability, and gene expression profile after neurulation. This raises the intriguing possibility that precursors are actively maintained by epigenetic influences in a stem cell-like state. Accordingly, we report that dynamic histone modifications are critical for proper temporal control of neural crest gene expression in vivo. The histone demethylase, JumonjiD2A (JmjD2A/KDM4A), is expressed in the forming neural folds. Loss of JmjD2A function causes dramatic downregulation of neural crest specifier genes analyzed by multiplex NanoString and in situ hybridization. Importantly, in vivo chromatin immunoprecipitation reveals direct stage-specific interactions of JmjD2A with regulatory regions of neural crest genes, and associated temporal modifications in methylation states of lysine residues directly affected by JmjD2A activity. Our findings show that chromatin modifications directly control neural crest genes in vertebrate embryos via modulating histone methylation.

Original publication




Journal article


Dev Cell

Publication Date





460 - 468


Animals, Blotting, Western, Cell Differentiation, Cell Proliferation, Chick Embryo, Chickens, Chromatin Immunoprecipitation, Fibroblasts, Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental, In Situ Hybridization, Jumonji Domain-Containing Histone Demethylases, Neural Crest, RNA, Messenger, Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction, SOXE Transcription Factors