The development and origins of vertebrate meninges

  • Munirah Batarfi School of Biological Sciences and Institute for Cardiovascular and Metabolic Research, Hopkins Building, University of Reading, Whiteknights, Reading, Berkshire, RG6 6UB, United Kingdom; Anatomy Department, Faculty of Medicine, King Fahad Medical City, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
  • Petr Valasek School of Biological Sciences and Institute for Cardiovascular and Metabolic Research, Hopkins Building, University of Reading, Whiteknights, Reading, Berkshire, RG6 6UB, United Kingdom; Institute of Anatomy, First Faculty of Medicine, Charles University, U Nemocnice 3, Praha 2, 128 00, Prague, Czech Republic
  • Eliska Krejci Institute of Anatomy, First Faculty of Medicine, Charles University, U Nemocnice 3, Praha 2, 128 00, Prague, Czech Republic
  • Ruijin Huang Department of Neural Anatomy, Institute of Anatomy, University of Bonn, Germany; Department of Molecular Embryology, Institute of Anatomy and Cell Biology, University of Freiburg, Germany
  • Ketan Patel School of Biological Sciences and Institute for Cardiovascular and Metabolic Research, Hopkins Building, University of Reading, Whiteknights, Reading, Berkshire, RG6 6UB, United Kingdom; Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS), University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany


Meninges comprise three distinct layers, the dura mater, arachnoid, and pia mater that surround the brain, spinal cord and some parts of the nerves. Traditionally the meninges were believed to serve only as protection for tissues that they encase. However recent work shows they have other important functions related to development and regulation of the nervous system. Given the importance of the meninges, it is surprising that we know very little about their development. The embryological origin of the meninges has been debated for over a hundred years. Some studies imply that the meninges develop from the neural crest, while others suggest that they come from the somites. Here, we investigated the temporal development of meninges in birds and mice and found they form at comparable stages. We investigated the origin of avian spinal meninges
using chick/quail cell tracing protocols and found they do not develop from the somites as previously thought. We propose that meningeal epithelial blood vessels may have been mistaken as meninges and led to an erroneous conclusion by previous investigators. We present data that show that avian spinal meninges originated from the neural crest supported by data demonstrating that they express the neural crest marker HNK1. Finally using the Wnt1-Cre mouse we show that trunk meninges of mammals also originate from neural crest.


embryo, chick, mouse, meninges, development


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How to Cite
Batarfi, M., Valasek, P., Krejci, E., Huang, R., & Patel, K. (2017). The development and origins of vertebrate meninges. Biological Communications, 62(2), 73–81.
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