Hindbrain neural crest cells were labeled with DiI and followed in ovo using a new approach for long-term time-lapse confocal microscopy. In ovo imaging allowed us to visualize neural crest cell migration 2–3 times longer than in whole embryo explant cultures, providing a more complete picture of the dynamics of cell migration from emergence at the dorsal midline to entry into the branchial arches. There were aspects of the in ovo neural crest cell migration patterning which were new and different. Surprisingly, there was contact between neural crest cell migration streams bound for different branchial arches. This cell-cell contact occurred in the region lateral to the otic vesicle, where neural crest cells within the distinct streams diverted from their migration pathways into the branchial arches and instead migrated around the otic vesicle to establish a contact between streams. Some individual neural crest cells did appear to cross between the streams, but there was no widespread mixing. Analysis of individual cell trajectories showed that neural crest cells emerge from all rhombomeres (r) and sort into distinct exiting streams adjacent to the even-numbered rhombomeres. Neural crest cell migration behaviors resembled the wide diversity seen in whole embryo chick explants, including chain-like cell arrangements; however, average in ovo cell speeds are as much as 70% faster. To test to what extent neural crest cells from adjoining rhombomeres mix along migration routes and within the branchial arches, separate groups of premigratory neural crest cells were labeled with DiI or DiD. Results showed that r6 and r7 neural crest cells migrated to the same spatial location within the fourth branchial arch. The diversity of migration behaviors suggests that no single mechanism guides in ovo hindbrain neural crest cell migration into the branchial arches. The cell-cell contact between migration streams and the co-localization of neural crest cells from adjoining rhombomeres within a single branchial arch support the notion that the pattern of hindbrain neural crest cell migration emerges dynamically with cell-cell communication playing an important guidance role.

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