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Dev Cell. 2004 Apr;6(4):589-96.

Autonomous modes of behavior in primordial germ cell migration.

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  • 1Germ Cell Development, Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Am Fassberg 11, 37077 Göttingen, Germany.


Zebrafish primordial germ cells (PGCs) are guided toward their targets by the chemokine SDF-1a. PGCs were followed during three phases of their migration: when migrating as individual cells, while remaining in a clustered configuration, and when moving as a cell cluster within the embryo. We found that individually migrating PGCs alternate between migratory and pausing modes. Pausing intervals are characterized by loss of cell polarity and correlate with subsequent changes in the direction of migration. These properties constitute an intrinsic behavior of PGCs, enabling erasure of prior polarity and re-sampling of the environment. Following migration arrest at a site of high SDF-1a levels, PGCs resume migration as a cluster. The seemingly coordinated cluster migration is a result of single-cell movement in response to local variations in SDF-1a distribution. Together, these behavioral modes allow the cells to arrive at specific destinations with high fidelity and remain at their target site.

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