The chemokine stromal cell-derived factor-1 regulates the migration of sensory neuron progenitors

Abdelhak Belmadani, Phuong B. Tran, Dongjun Ren, Stavroula Assimacopoulos, Elizabeth A. Grove, Richard J. Miller*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

176 Scopus citations


Chemokines and their receptors are essential for the development and organization of the hematopoietic/lymphopoietic system and have now been shown to be expressed by different types of cells in the nervous system. In mouse embryos, we observed expression of the chemokine (CXC motif) receptor 4 (CXCR4) by neural crest cells migrating from the dorsal neural tube and in the dorsal root ganglia (DRGs). Stromal cell-derived factor-1 (SDF-1), the unique agonist for CXCR4, was expressed along the path taken by crest cells to the DRGs, suggesting that SDF-1/CXCR4 signaling is needed for their migration. CXCR4 null mice exhibited small and malformed DRGs. Delayed migration to the DRGs was suggested by ectopic cells expressing tyrosine receptor kinase A (TrkA) and TrkC, neurotrophin receptors required by DRG sensory neuron development. In vitro, the CXCR4 chemokine receptor was upregulated by migratory progenitor cells just as they exited mouse neural tube explants, and SDF-1 acted as a chemoattractant for these cells. Most CXCR4-expressing progenitors differentiated to form sensory neurons with the properties of polymodal nociceptors. Furthermore, DRGs contained a population of progenitor cells that expressed CXCR4 receptors in vitro and differentiated into neurons with a similar phenotype. Our findings indicate an important role for SDF-1/CXCR4 signaling in directing the migration of sensory neuron progenitors to the DRG and potentially in other aspects of development once the DRGs have coalesced.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3995-4003
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number16
StatePublished - Apr 20 2005


  • CXCR4 receptors
  • Migration
  • Neural crest
  • Neurogenesis
  • SDF-1
  • Sensory neurons

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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