Mesodermal cell migration during Xenopus gastrulation

Dev Biol. 1990 Nov;142(1):155-68. doi: 10.1016/0012-1606(90)90159-g.


The adhesive glycoprotein fibronectin (FN), which is a component of the network of extracellular matrix fibrils on the inner surface of the blastocoel roof (BCR), has been proposed to play a major role in directing mesodermal cell migration during amphibian gastrulation. In the first part of this paper, the adhesion of Xenopus mesodermal cells to FN in vitro is examined. Cells from several mesoderm regions, which differ in developmental fate and morphogenetic activity, are able to bind specifically to the RGD cell-binding site of FN. Dorsal mesodermal cell adhesion to FN varies along the anterior-posterior (a-p) axis: adhesion is strongest in the anterior head mesoderm, and gradually decreases posteriorly. This a-p gradient of mesodermal adhesiveness to FN does not change during mesodermal involution, and is reflected in the morphology of mesodermal explants on FN. An a-p strip of mesoderm develops a spreading, leading anterior margin and a compact, retracting posterior end, thus moving slowly and directionally over the FN substrate at about 0.8 micron/min. Although dissociated cells from all levels of the dorsal mesodermal axis adhere to FN, only the anterior, leading prospective head mesoderm cells migrate as single cells on a FN substrate in vitro. Locomotion by means of lamelliform protrusions occurs at an average rate of about 1.5 micron/min. Cells of the more posterior axial mesoderm merely shift position at random without substantial net translocation, and preinvolution mesoderm cells are completely stationary. On the BCR, the in vivo substrate for mesodermal cell migration, dissociated prospective head mesoderm cells spread and migrate as on FN in vitro, at 2.2 microns/min. In the presence of an RGD peptide which inhibits cell-FN interaction, cells remain globular and do not spread. They are still motile, but change direction frequently, which leads to less efficient net translocation. Apparently, interaction with the RGD cell-binding site of FN and concomitant spreading of head mesoderm cells is required for the stabilization of cell locomotion. In contrast to the directional migration of the mesoderm cell population toward the animal pole in the embryo, the pathways of dissociated cells on the BCR are randomly oriented. Coherent explants of migratory mesoderm do not move at all on the BCR, although they translocate on FN in vitro.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Binding Sites
  • Cell Adhesion
  • Cell Movement*
  • Ectoderm / metabolism
  • Ectoderm / ultrastructure
  • Endoderm / metabolism
  • Endoderm / ultrastructure
  • Fibronectins / metabolism*
  • Gastrula*
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Mesoderm / physiology*
  • Mesoderm / ultrastructure
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Oligopeptides / metabolism
  • Xenopus laevis / embryology*


  • Fibronectins
  • Oligopeptides
  • arginyl-glycyl-aspartic acid