Neural crest Notch/Rbpj signaling regulates olfactory gliogenesis and neuronal migration.
The neural crest-derived ensheathing glial cells of the olfactory nerve (OECs) are unique in spanning both the peripheral and central nervous systems: they ensheathe bundles of axons projecting from olfactory receptor neurons in the nasal epithelium to their targets in the olfactory bulb. OECs are clinically relevant as a promising autologous cell transplantation therapy for promoting central nervous system repair. They are also important for fertility, being required for the migration of embryonic gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) neurons from the olfactory placode along terminal nerve axons to the medial forebrain, which they enter caudal to the olfactory bulbs. Like Schwann cell precursors, OEC precursors associated with the developing olfactory nerve express the glial marker myelin protein zero and the key peripheral glial transcription factor Sox10. The transition from Schwann cell precursors to immature Schwann cells is accelerated by canonical Notch signaling via the Rbpj transcription factor. Here, we aimed to test the role of Notch/Rbpj signaling in developing OECs by blocking the pathway in both chicken and mouse. Our results suggest that Notch/Rbpj signaling prevents the cranial neural crest cells that colonize the olfactory nerve from differentiating as neurons, and at later stages contributes to the guidance of GnRH neurons.