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The neural crest (NC) is a transient embryonic stem cell-like population characterized by its multipotency and broad developmental potential. Here, we perform NC-specific transcriptional and epigenomic profiling of foxd3-mutant cells in vivo to define the gene regulatory circuits controlling NC specification. Together with global binding analysis obtained by foxd3 biotin-ChIP and single cell profiles of foxd3-expressing premigratory NC, our analysis shows that, during early steps of NC formation, foxd3 acts globally as a pioneer factor to prime the onset of genes regulating NC specification and migration by re-arranging the chromatin landscape, opening cis-regulatory elements and reshuffling nucleosomes. Strikingly, foxd3 then gradually switches from an activator to its well-described role as a transcriptional repressor and potentially uses differential partners for each role. Taken together, these results demonstrate that foxd3 acts bimodally in the neural crest as a switch from "permissive" to "repressive" nucleosome and chromatin organization to maintain multipotency and define cell fates.

Original publication




Journal article


Dev Cell

Publication Date





608 - 628.e6


chromatin dynamics, enhancer, foxd3, gene regulatory network, neural crest, pioneer factor, repressor, stem cells, Animals, Chromatin Assembly and Disassembly, Enhancer Elements, Genetic, Forkhead Transcription Factors, Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental, Neural Crest, Zebrafish, Zebrafish Proteins