Progenitors of the protochordate ocellus as an evolutionary origin of the neural crest
1 Koltzov Institute of Developmental Biology, Vavilova 26, Moscow 119334, Russia
2 Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics, Karolinska Institutet, Scheeles vag 1 A1, Stockholm 17177, Sweden
EvoDevo 2013, 4:12 doi:10.1186/2041-9139-4-12Published: 10 April 2013
The neural crest represents a highly multipotent population of embryonic stem cells found only in vertebrate embryos. Acquisition of the neural crest during the evolution of vertebrates was a great advantage, providing Chordata animals with the first cellular cartilage, bone, dentition, advanced nervous system and other innovations. Today not much is known about the evolutionary origin of neural crest cells. Here we propose a novel scenario in which the neural crest originates from neuroectodermal progenitors of the pigmented ocelli in Amphioxus-like animals. We suggest that because of changes in photoreception needs, these multipotent progenitors of photoreceptors gained the ability to migrate outside of the central nervous system and subsequently started to give rise to neural, glial and pigmented progeny at the periphery.