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Dev Biol. 2003 Dec 15;264(2):550-63.

Ephrin-A2 regulates position-specific cell affinity and is involved in cartilage morphogenesis in the chick limb bud.

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Department of Molecular Biology, Kawasaki Medical School, 577 Matsushima, Kurashiki City 701-0192, Japan.


In the developing limb bud, mesenchymal cells show position-specific affinity, suggesting that the positional identity of the cells is represented as their surface properties. Since the affinity is regulated by glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI)-anchored cell surface proteins, and by EphA4 receptor tyrosine kinase, we hypothesized that the GPI-anchored ligand, the ephrin-A family, also contributes to the affinity. Here, we describe the role of ephrin-A2 in the chick limb bud. Ephrin-A2 protein is uniformly distributed in the limb bud during early limb development. As the limb bud grows, expression of ephrin-A2 is strong in its proximal-to-intermediate regions, but weak distally. The position-dependent expression is maintained in vitro, and is regulated by FGF protein, which is produced in the apical ectodermal ridge. To investigate the role of ephrin-A2 in affinity and in cartilage morphogenesis of limb mesenchyme, we ectopically expressed ephrin-A2 in the limb bud using the retrovirus vector, RCAS. Overexpressed ephrin-A2 modulated the affinity of the mesenchymal cells that differentiate into autopod elements. It also caused malformation of the autopod skeleton and interfered with cartilage nodule formation in vitro without inhibiting chondrogenesis. These results suggest that ephrin-A2 regulates the position-specific affinity of limb mesenchyme and is involved in cartilage pattern formation in the limb.

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