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Cell Adh Migr. 2012 Sep-Oct;6(5):419-23. doi: 10.4161/cam.21266. Epub 2012 Sep 1.

Phactr4: a new integrin modulator required for directional migration of enteric neural crest cells.

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Cell Biology, Stem Cells and Development Graduate Program, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, CO, USA.


The enteric nervous system (ENS) is critically important for many intestinal functions such as peristalsis and secretion. Defects in the embryonic formation of the ENS cause Hirschsprung disease (HSCR) or megacolon, a severe birth defect that affects approximately 1 in 5,000 newborns. One of the least understood aspects of ENS development are the cellular and molecular mechanisms that control chain migration of the ENS cells during their migration into and along the embryonic gut. We recently reported a mouse model of HSCR in which mutant embryos carrying a hypomorphic allele of the Phactr4 gene show an embryonic gastrointestinal defect due to loss of enteric neurons in the colon. We found that Phactr4 modulates integrin signaling and cofilin activity to coordinate the forces that drive enteric neural crest cell (ENCC) migration in the mammalian embryo. In this extra view, we briefly summarize the current knowledge on integrin signaling in ENCC migration and introduce the Phactr protein family. Employing the ENS as a model, we shed some light on the mechanisms by which Phactr4 regulates integrin signaling and controls the cell polarity required for directional ENCC migration in the mouse developing gut.

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