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Dev Biol. 1989 Nov;136(1):118-28.

Induction of an epithelial-mesenchymal transition by an in vivo adheron-like complex.

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Department of Physiology, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland 21205.

Erratum in

  • Dev Biol 1990 Jan;137(1):217.


The embryonic vertebrate heart consists of two epithelia: the myocardium and endothelium, separated by the myocardial basement membrane (MBM). The myocardium has been shown to induce endothelial transformation into prevalvular mesenchyme in a temporally and site restricted manner. Previously, we hypothesized that the myocardial-endothelial interaction is mediated in vivo by aggregates of 30-nm particles in the MBM which can be removed by EDTA extraction. These MBM extracts contain fibronectin and other lower Mr proteins and can initiate an epithelial-mesenchymal transition in the AV (atrioventricular canal) endothelium of embryonic chick heart in collagen gel culture. These and other data suggested that the 30-nm multicomponent particles are similar, structurally and compositionally, to multimolecular complexes, termed adherons, secreted by L6 muscle cells in culture. The purpose of this study was to (1) test whether the removal of the 30-nm particles from MBM extracts of embryonic chick hearts would remove the in vitro biological activity and (2) determine if the fractionated MBM extracts can cause AV endothelial cells to follow the same differentiation pathway observed in vivo by monitoring immunohistochemically the cell surface expression of N-CAM. Results showed that centrifugation of extract at 100,000g for 1 hr produced a supernatant fraction that was unable to initiate mesenchyme formation from AV endothelium. However, the resuspended pellet fraction did initiate differentiation of endothelium into mesenchyme. Conditioned medium from L6 skeletal muscle cultures could not substitute for the EDTA extract of embryonic heart. Endothelial cells undergoing the transition to form mesenchyme, both in vivo and in vitro, showed a concomitant decrease in N-CAM staining. This suggested that the pellet-induced formation of migrating cells in the collagen gels is not the result a novel in vitro phenomenon.

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