EphrinB/EphB Signaling Controls Embryonic Germ Layer Separation by Contact-Induced Cell Detachment

EphrinB/EphB Signaling Controls Embryonic Germ Layer Separation by Contact-Induced Cell Detachment.

Rohani N, Canty L, Luu O, Fagotto F, Winklbauer R (2011)

PLoS Biol 9(3): e1000597. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1000597

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Figure 9. Model for tissue separation.

The primordial organization of the metazoan body is achieved during gastrulation by the establishment of the germ layers. Adhesion differences between ectoderm, mesoderm, and endoderm cells could in principle be sufficient to maintain germ layer integrity and prevent intermixing. However, in organisms as diverse as fly, fish, or amphibian, the ectoderm-mesoderm boundary not only keeps these germ layers separated, but the ectoderm also serves as substratum for mesoderm migration, and the boundary must be compatible with repeated cell attachment and detachment.

Principal Findings
We show that localized detachment resulting from contact-induced signals at the boundary is at the core of ectoderm-mesoderm segregation. Cells alternate between adhesion and detachment, and detachment requires ephrinB/EphB signaling. Multiple ephrinB ligands and EphB receptors are expressed on each side of the boundary, and tissue separation depends on forward signaling across the boundary in both directions, involving partially redundant ligands and receptors and activation of Rac and RhoA.

This mechanism differs from a simple differential adhesion process of germ layer formation. Instead, it involves localized responses to signals exchanged at the tissue boundary and an attachment/detachment cycle which allows for cell migration across a cellular substratum.

Author Summary
The formation and maintenance of tissue boundaries is an essential feature of multicellular animals, including humans. Using the frog embryo as a model system, we describe a mechanism of tissue separation that involves repeated cycles of cell attachment and detachment at the boundary between two adjacent tissues. Molecularly, this mechanism is based on a signal exchange across the boundary by a system of receptors and ligands—EphB receptors and ephrinB ligands—that are both integral cell membrane proteins, and thus require direct cell contact for signaling. In this way, cell attachment-dependent contact induces signaling which leads to a temporary detachment, followed by reattachment and a next round of signaling. Such an attachment-detachment mechanism allows for cell migration along the boundary, while at the same time preventing invasion of the stationary tissue by the migrating one.

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