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Development. 2006 Feb;133(4):685-95. Epub 2006 Jan 18.

Regulation of somitogenesis by Ena/VASP proteins and FAK during Xenopus development.

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  • 1Department of Genetics, Cell Biology and Development and Developmental Biology Center, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA.


The metameric organization of the vertebrate body plan is established during somitogenesis as somite pairs sequentially form along the anteroposterior axis. Coordinated regulation of cell shape, motility and adhesion are crucial for directing the morphological segmentation of somites. We show that members of the Ena/VASP family of actin regulatory proteins are required for somitogenesis in Xenopus. Xenopus Ena (Xena) localizes to the cell periphery in the presomitic mesoderm (PSM), and is enriched at intersomitic junctions and at myotendinous junctions in somites and the myotome, where it co-localizes with beta1-integrin, vinculin and FAK. Inhibition of Ena/VASP function with dominant-negative mutants results in abnormal somite formation that correlates with later defects in intermyotomal junctions. Neutralization of Ena/VASP activity disrupts cell rearrangements during somite rotation and leads to defects in the fibronectin (FN) matrix surrounding somites. Furthermore, inhibition of Ena/VASP function impairs FN matrix assembly, spreading of somitic cells on FN and autophosphorylation of FAK, suggesting a role for Ena/VASP proteins in the modulation of integrin-mediated processes. We also show that inhibition of FAK results in defects in somite formation, blocks FN matrix deposition and alters Xena localization. Together, these results provide evidence that Ena/VASP proteins and FAK are required for somite formation in Xenopus and support the idea that Ena/VASP and FAK function in a common pathway to regulate integrin-dependent migration and adhesion during somitogenesis.

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