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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1994 Jan 4;91(1):206-9.

Experimental specification of cell sorting, tissue spreading, and specific spatial patterning by quantitative differences in cadherin expression.

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Department of Molecular Biology, Princeton University, NJ 08544.


The sorting-out of embryonic cells from a cell mixture and the selective spreading of one cell population over the surface of another have been attributed to various causes. These include differentials in chemotaxis, in cellular adhesiveness, in cell surface contractility, in speed of cell movement, and in the timing of postulated changes in cellular adhesive and motile properties. One of us earlier predicted on mathematical grounds that two motile cell types differing only in the level of expression of a single cell adhesion system should not only segregate from one another but also arrange themselves with the less cohesive cells enveloping a core of the more cohesive ones. To test these predictions, we combined two populations of L cells transfected with P-cadherin cDNA and expressing this homophilic adhesion molecule in substantially differing amounts. When the two cell populations were intermixed, they segregated to approach a sphere-within-a-sphere configuration, the cell population expressing more P-cadherin forming islands which fused to become an internal "medulla." When the two cell populations were first formed into separate aggregates which were subsequently allowed to fuse, the cell population expressing more P-cadherin was enveloped by its partner, which formed an external "cortex." These observations confirm the early prediction and support the conclusion that both morphogenetic movements and the specific anatomical configurations to which they lead can be determined by particular sets of intercellular adhesive intensities, regardless of how these are generated and in the absence of differentials in other parameters.

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