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Development. 2001 Dec;128(23):4669-80.

EphA4/ephrin-A5 interactions in muscle precursor cell migration in the avian forelimb.

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  • 1Division of Biological Sciences, University of Missouri-Columbia, Columbia, MO 65211, USA.


Limb muscles derive from muscle precursor cells that lie initially in the lateral portion of the somitic dermomyotome and subsequently migrate to their target limb regions, where muscle-specific gene transcription is initiated. Although several molecules that control the generation and delamination of muscle precursor cells have been identified, little is known about the mechanisms that guide muscle precursor cell migration in the limb. We have examined the distribution of members of the Eph family during muscle precursor cell development. The EphA4 receptor tyrosine kinase and its ligand, ephrin-A5, are expressed by muscle precursor cells and forelimb mesoderm in unique spatiotemporal patterns during the period when muscle precursors delaminate from the dermomyotome and migrate into the limb. To test the function of EphA4/ephrin-A5 interactions in muscle precursor migration, we used targeted in ovo electroporation to express ephrin-A5 ectopically specifically in the presumptive limb mesoderm. In the presence of ectopic ephrin-A5, Pax7-positive muscle precursor cells are significantly reduced in number in the proximal limb, compared with controls, and congregate abnormally near the lateral dermomyotome. In stripe assays, isolated muscle precursor cells avoid substrate-bound ephrin-A5 and this avoidance is abolished by addition of soluble ephrin-A5. These data suggest that ephrin-A5 normally restricts migrating, EphA4-positive muscle precursor cells to their appropriate territories in the forelimb, disallowing entry into abnormal embryonic regions.

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