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Dev Biol. 2018 Jun 27. pii: S0012-1606(17)30609-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2018.06.018. [Epub ahead of print]

Cadherin-6B proteolytic N-terminal fragments promote chick cranial neural crest cell delamination by regulating extracellular matrix degradation.

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Department of Animal and Avian Sciences, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, USA.
Department of Animal and Avian Sciences, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, USA. Electronic address:


During epithelial-to-mesenchymal transitions (EMTs), chick cranial neural crest cells simultaneously delaminate from the basement membrane and segregate from the epithelia, in part, via multiple protease-mediated mechanisms. Proteolytic processing of Cadherin-6B (Cad6B) in premigratory cranial neural crest cells by metalloproteinases not only disassembles cadherin-based junctions but also generates shed Cad6B ectodomains or N-terminal fragments (NTFs) that may possess additional roles. Here we report that Cad6B NTFs promote delamination by enhancing local extracellular proteolytic activity around neural crest cells undergoing EMT en masse. During EMT, Cad6B NTFs of varying molecular weights are observed, indicating that Cad6B may be cleaved at different sites by A Disintegrin and Metalloproteinases (ADAMs) 10 and 19 as well as by other matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs). To investigate Cad6B NTF function, we first generated NTF constructs that express recombinant NTFs with similar relative mobilities to those NTFs shed in vivo. Overexpression of either long or short Cad6B NTFs in premigratory neural crest cells reduces laminin and fibronectin levels within the basement membrane, which then facilitates precocious neural crest cell delamination. Zymography assays performed with supernatants of neural crest cell explants overexpressing Cad6B long NTFs demonstrate increased MMP2 activity versus controls, suggesting that Cad6B NTFs promote delamination through a mechanism involving MMP2. Interestingly, this increase in MMP2 does not involve up-regulation of MMP2 or its regulators at the transcriptional level but instead may be attributed to a physical interaction between shed Cad6B NTFs and MMP2. Taken together, these results highlight a new function for Cad6B NTFs and provide insight into how cadherins regulate cellular delamination during normal developmental EMTs as well as aberrant EMTs that underlie human disease.

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