A variety of evidence suggests that fibronectin (FN) promotes cell migration during embryogenesis, and it has been suggested that the deposition of FN along migratory pathways may also play a role in cell guidance. In order to investigate such a role for FN, it is important to determine the relative contribution of migrating and pathway-forming cells to the FN in the migratory track, as any synthesis of FN by the migrating cells might be expected to mask guidance cues provided by the exogenous FN from pathway-forming cells. We have therefore used in situ hybridization to determine in developing chicken embryos the distribution and alternative splicing of FN mRNA during three different cell migrations known to occur through FN-rich environments; neural crest cell migration, mesenchymal cell migration in the area vasculosa and endocardial cushion cell migration in the heart. Our results show that trunk neural crest cells do not contain significant FN mRNA during their initial migration. In contrast, migrating mesenchymal cells of the area vasculosa and endocardial cushion cells both contain abundant FN mRNA. Furthermore, the FN mRNA in these migrating mesenchymal and endocardial cells appears to be spliced in a manner identical with that present in the cells adjacent to their pathways. This in vivo evidence for FN synthesis by migrating and pathway cells argues against a generalized role for exogenously produced FN as a guidance mechanism for cell migration.

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