Cadherin-dependent differential cell adhesion in Xenopus causes cell sorting in vitro but not in the embryo

A1 NIESSENNinomiya, H., David, R., Dam, E.W., Fagotto, F., Niessen, C.M. and Winklbauer, R., J Cell Sci. 2012 Apr 15;125(Pt 8):1877-83. doi: 10.1242/jcs.095315. Epub 2012 Feb 10.


Adhesion differences between cell populations are in principle a source of strong morphogenetic forces promoting cell sorting, boundary formation and tissue positioning, and cadherins are main mediators of cell adhesion. However, a direct link between cadherin expression, differential adhesion and morphogenesis has not yet been determined for a specific process in vivo. To identify such a connection, we modulated the expression of C-cadherin in the Xenopus laevis gastrula, and combined this with direct measurements of cell adhesion-related parameters. Our results show that gastrulation is surprisingly tolerant of overall changes in adhesion. Also, as expected, experimentally generated, cadherin-based adhesion differences promote cell sorting in vitro. Importantly, however, such differences do not lead to the sorting of cells in the embryo, showing that differential adhesion is not sufficient to drive morphogenesis in this system. Compensatory recruitment of cadherin protein to contacts between cadherin-deprived and -overexpressing cells could contribute to the prevention of sorting in vivo.



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