Increased nuchal translucency originates from disturbed lymphatic development. Abnormal neural crest cell (NCC) migration may be involved in lymphatic development. Because both neuronal and lymphatic development share retinoic acid (RA) as a common factor, this study investigated the involvement of NCCs and RA in specific steps in lymphatic endothelial cell (LEC) differentiation and nuchal edema, which is the morphological equivalent of increased nuchal translucency.
Mouse embryos in which all NCCs were fluorescently labeled (Wnt1-Cre;Rosa26eYfp ), reporter embryos for in vivo RA activity (DR5-luciferase) and embryos with absent (Raldh2-/- ) or in utero inhibition of RA signaling (BMS493) were investigated. Immunofluorescence using markers for blood vessels, lymphatic endothelium and neurons was applied. Flow cytometry was performed to measure specific LEC populations.
Cranial nerves were consistently close to the jugular lymph sac (JLS), in which NCCs were identified. In the absence of RA synthesis, enlarged JLS and nuchal edema were observed. Inhibiting RA signaling in utero resulted in a significantly higher amount of precursor-LECs at the expense of mature LECs and caused nuchal edema.
Neural crest cells are involved in lymphatic development. RA is required for differentiation into mature LECs. Blocking RA signaling in mouse embryos results in abnormal lymphatic development and nuchal edema.