Atg7-mediated autophagy is involved in the neural crest cell generation in chick embryo

Guang Wang, En-ni Chen, Chang Liang, Jianxin Liang, Lin-rui Gao, Manli Chuai, Andrea Munsterberg, Yongping Bao, Liu Cao, Xuesong Yang

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Autophagy plays a very important role in numerous physiological and pathological events. However, it still remains unclear whether Atg7-induced autophagy is involved in the regulation of neural crest cell production. In this study, we found the co-location of Atg7 and Pax7+ neural crest cells in early chick embryo development. Upregulation of Atg7 with unilateral transfection of full-length Atg7 increased Pax7+ and HNK-1+ cephalic and trunk neural crest cell numbers compared to either Control-GFP transfection or opposite neural tubes, suggesting that Atg7 over-expression in neural tubes could enhance the production of neural crest cells. BMP4 in situ hybridization and p-Smad1/5/8 immunofluorescent staining demonstrated that upregulation of Atg7 in neural tubes suppressed the BMP4/Smad signaling, which is considered to promote the delamination of neural crest cells. Interestingly, upregulation of Atg7 in neural tubes could significantly accelerate cell progression into the S phase, implying that Atg7 modulates cell cycle progression. However, β-catenin expression was not significantly altered. Finally, we demonstrated that upregulation of the Atg7 gene could activate autophagy as did Atg8. We have also observed that similar phenotypes, such as more HNK-1+ neural crest cells in the unilateral Atg8 transfection side of neural tubes, and the transfection with full-length Atg8-GFP certainly promote the numbers of BrdU+ neural crest cells in comparison to the GFP control. Taken together, we reveal that Atg7-induced autophagy is involved in regulating the production of neural crest cells in early chick embryos through the modification of the cell cycle.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3523–3536
Number of pages14
JournalMolecular Neurobiology
Issue number4
Early online date16 May 2017
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018


  • Neural crest
  • Atg7
  • Autophagy
  • Cell cycle

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