Making Faces: Regulatory Evolution and Variation in the Human Neural Crest
From Galapagos finches to anteaters, the remarkable diversity of craniofacial structures within the vertebrate species is a testament to the plasticity of development and resourcefulness of evolution. While craniofacial development requires interactions between multiple embryonic cell types, Cranial Neural Crest Cells (CNCCs) play a major role in establishing the central plan of facial morphology as well as determining its species-speciﬁc variation. I will discuss an approach we termed ‘cellular anthropology’ in which in vitro differentiation models using hominid iPSCs can be effectively applied to studies of both basic physiology as well as evolutionary questions. Specifically, I will focus on using cellular anthropology to understand how sequence variation in human CNCC regulatory elements produce quantitative and cell type-restricted transcriptional changes that can mediate morphological evolution and individual variation of the craniofacial form.