We have characterized the diversity of the chicken beta 1 integrin family and studied the expression of individual receptors during development. The diversity of the beta 1 integrin family was investigated by affinity purifying the beta 1 integrins from a variety of adult and embryonic tissues. These purifications reveal the relative levels of expression and also the differential expression of the alpha subunits in those tissues. Monoclonal antibodies were generated against the prominent ‘band 1’ of the embryonic chicken integrins and used to characterize the expression of this alpha subunit in embryonic and adult tissues. This alpha subunit is shown to be the chicken homologue of human alpha 5 fibronectin receptor. The chicken alpha 5 beta 1 integrin is the most prominent beta 1 integrin in the embryo and is expressed on the majority of cell types through the day 17 stage. The distribution of this receptor in the embryo closely parallels the distribution of its ligand, fibronectin. In adult tissues, expression of this receptor is greatly diminished relative to the expression of other alpha subunits. The cell type distribution is highly restricted: limited primarily to the vasculature and to connective tissue regions. These studies reveal a prominent role for the alpha 5 beta 1 integrin in embryonic cell types and a down-regulation of this receptor on many cell types during development.

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