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Development. 2012 Jun;139(12):2101-6. doi: 10.1242/dev.078949.

Drosophila primordial germ cell migration requires epithelial remodeling of the endoderm.

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HHMI and Kimmel Center for Biology and Medicine at the Skirball Institute, Department of Cell Biology, New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY 10016, USA.


Trans-epithelial migration describes the ability of migrating cells to cross epithelial tissues and occurs during development, infection, inflammation, immune surveillance, wound healing and cancer metastasis. Here we investigate Drosophila primordial germ cells (PGCs), which migrate through the endodermal epithelium. Through live imaging and genetic experimentation we demonstrate that PGCs take advantage of endodermal tissue remodeling to gain access to the gonadal mesoderm and are unable to migrate through intact epithelial tissues. These results are in contrast to the behavior of leukocytes, which actively loosen epithelial junctions to migrate, and raise the possibility that in other contexts in which migrating cells appear to breach tissue barriers, they are actually exploiting existing tissue permeability. Therefore, the use of active invasive programs is not the sole mechanism to infiltrate tissues.

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