Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

The microenvironment is thought to play a key role in the control of neural crest cell diversification. To investigate its role in melanocyte differentiation we mapped the temporal and spatial distribution of pigmented melanocytes in embryonic chick skin and determined, by experimental means, the route taken by migrating melanocytes in the skin. We show that the New Hampshire Red/Black Australorp crossbreed exhibits melanization from 5 days of incubation (2 1/2 days earlier than is reported in other breeds). Contrary to previous reports our findings show that melanization is at first predominantly dermal. Both dermal and epidermal melanocyte numbers increase until Day 8, whereafter there is a dramatic decline in dermal melanocytes and by Day 10, melanocytes are almost exclusively located in the epidermis. Using homeotypic and heterotypic combinations of white and red/black dermis and epidermis we have demonstrated that premelanocytes arrive in the dermis of the trunk by Day 3 and begin to move into the epidermis from Day 4 onward. Results from these grafts and from tritium labeling studies strongly suggest that there is little or no reverse migration of premelanocytes from epidermis to dermis. Our findings indicate that overt melanocyte differentiation is not dependent on location in an epidermal environment, and that melanogenesis does not signify the end-stage in the migration process. Further, they suggest that the early dermal mesenchyme plays a key role in controlling melanogenesis.

Original publication




Journal article


Dev Biol

Publication Date





182 - 194


Animals, Cell Differentiation, Cell Movement, Cells, Cultured, Chick Embryo, Epidermal Cells, Epidermis, Melanocytes, Models, Biological, Skin, Skin Physiological Phenomena, Skin Transplantation