Genetics underlying the interactions between neural crest cells and eye development

Jochen Weigele, Brenda L. Bohnsack*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The neural crest is a unique, transient stem cell population that is critical for craniofacial and ocular development. Understanding the genetics underlying the steps of neural crest development is essential for gaining insight into the pathogenesis of congenital eye diseases. The neural crest cells play an under-appreciated key role in patterning the neural epithelial-derived optic cup. These interactions between neural crest cells within the periocular mesenchyme and the optic cup, while not well-studied, are critical for optic cup morphogenesis and ocular fissure closure. As a result, microphthalmia and coloboma are common phenotypes in human disease and animal models in which neural crest cell specification and early migration are disrupted. In addition, neural crest cells directly contribute to numerous ocular structures including the cornea, iris, sclera, ciliary body, trabecular meshwork, and aqueous outflow tracts. Defects in later neural crest cell migration and differentiation cause a constellation of well-recognized ocular anterior segment anomalies such as Axenfeld–Rieger Syndrome and Peters Anomaly. This review will focus on the genetics of the neural crest cells within the context of how these complex processes specifically affect overall ocular development and can lead to congenital eye diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number26
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Developmental Biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • Axenfeld-Rieger Syndrome
  • Coloboma
  • Microphthalmia
  • Neural crest
  • Optic cup
  • Peters Anomaly

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology
  • Developmental Biology


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