Embryonic expression and function of the chemokine SDF-1 and its receptor, CXCR4

Dev Biol. 1999 Sep 15;213(2):442-56. doi: 10.1006/dbio.1999.9405.


Directed cell movement is integral to both embryogenesis and hematopoiesis. In the adult, the chemokine family of secreted proteins signals migration of hematopoietic cells through G-coupled chemokine receptors. We detected embryonic expression of chemokine receptor messages by RT-PCR with degenerate primers at embryonic day 7.5 (E7.5) or by RNase protection analyses of E8.5 and E12.5 tissues. In all samples, the message encoding CXCR4 was the predominate chemokine receptor detected, particularly at earlier times (E7.5 and E8.5). Other chemokine receptor messages (CCR1, CCR4, CCR5, CCR2, and CXCR2) were found in E12.5 tissues concordant temporally and spatially with definitive (adult-like) hematopoiesis. Expression of CXCR4 was compared with that of its only known ligand, stromal cell-derived factor-1 (SDF-1), by in situ hybridization. During organogenesis, these genes have dynamic and complementary expression patterns particularly in the developing neuronal, cardiac, vascular, hematopoietic, and craniofacial systems. Defects in the first four of these systems have been reported in CXCR4- and SDF-1-deficient mice. Our studies suggest new potential mechanisms for some of these defects as well as additional roles beyond the scope of the reported abnormalities. Earlier in development, expression of these genes correlates with migration during gastrulation. Migrating cells (mesoderm and definitive endoderm) contain CXCR4 message while embryonic ectoderm cells express SDF-1. Functional SDF-1 signaling in midgastrula cells as well as E12.5 hematopoietic progenitors was demonstrated by migration assays. Migration occurred with an optimum dose similar to that found for adult hematopoietic cells and was dependent on the presence of SDF-1 in a gradient. This work suggests roles for chemokine signaling in multiple embryogenic events.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Cell Movement / physiology
  • Chemokine CXCL12
  • Chemokines, CXC / physiology*
  • Embryo, Mammalian / cytology
  • Embryo, Mammalian / physiology*
  • Embryonic and Fetal Development / physiology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / physiology*
  • Hematopoiesis / physiology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred ICR
  • Receptors, CXCR4 / physiology*


  • Chemokine CXCL12
  • Chemokines, CXC
  • Cxcl12 protein, mouse
  • Receptors, CXCR4