Neural crest (NC) cells are a dynamic population of embryonic stem cells that create various adult tissues in vertebrate species. NC development is a conserved and complex process that is controlled by a tightly regulated gene regulatory network. Quail NC cells express SOX9, SNAI2,
Neural crest (NC) cells are a dynamic population of embryonic stem cells that create various adult tissues in vertebrate species including craniofacial bone and cartilage and the peripheral and enteric nervous systems. NC development is a conserved and complex process that is controlled by a tightly regulated gene regulatory network (GRN) of morphogens, transcription factors, and cell adhesion proteins. While multiple studies have characterized the expression of several GRN factors in single species, a comprehensive protein analysis that directly compares expression across development is lacking. To address this, we used three closely related avian models, Gallus gallus (chicken), Coturnix japonica (Japanese quail), and Pavo cristatus (Indian peafowl), to compare the localization and timing of four GRN transcription factors, PAX7, SOX9, SNAI2, and SOX10 from the onset of neurulation to migration. While the spatial expression of these factors is largely conserved, we find that quail NC cells express SOX9, SNAI2, and SOX10 proteins at the equivalent of earlier developmental stages than chick and peafowl. In addition, quail NC cells migrate farther and more rapidly than the larger organisms. These data suggest that despite a conservation of NC GRN players, differences in the timing of NC development between species remain a significant frontier to be explored with functional studies.