The distribution of the extracellular matrix (ECM) glycoprotein, tenascin, has been compared with that of fibronectin in neural crest migration pathways of Xenopus laevis, quail and rat embryos. In all species studied, the distribution of tenascin, examined by immunohistochemistry, was more closely correlated with pathways of migration than that of fibronectin, which is known to be important for neural crest migration. In Xenopus laevis embryos, anti-tenascin stained the dorsal fin matrix and ECM along the ventral route of migration, but not the ECM found laterally between the ectoderma and somites where neural crest cells do not migrate. In quail embryos, the appearance of tenascin in neural crest pathways was well correlated with the anterior-to-posterior wave of migration. The distribution of tenascin within somites was compared with that of the neural crest marker, HNK-1, in quail embryos. In the dorsal halves of quail somites which contained migrating neural crest cells, the predominant tenascin staining was in the anterior halves of the somites, codistributed with the migrating cells. In rat embryos, tenascin was detectable in the somites only in the anterior halves. Tenascin was not detectable in the matrix of cultured quail neural crest cells, but was in the matrix surrounding somite and notochord cells in vitro. Neural crest cells cultured on a substratum of tenascin did not spread and were rounded. We propose that tenascin is an important factor controlling neural crest morphogenesis, perhaps by modifying the interaction of neural crest cells with fibronectin.

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