We report here on the consequences of reducing the expression of EP-cadherin at the earliest stages of Xenopus development. Injection of oligodeoxynucleotides antisense to maternal EP-cadherin mRNA into full-grown oocytes reduced the mRNA level in oocytes, and the protein level in blastulae. Adhesion between blastomeres was significantly reduced, as seen in whole embryos, and in assays of the ability of blastomeres to reaggregate in culture. This effect was especially conspicuous in the inner cells of the blastula and included the disruption of the blastocoel. The severity of the EP-cadherin mRNA depletion and of the disaggregation phenotype was dose dependent. This phenotype was rescued by the injection into EP-cadherin mRNA-depleted oocytes of the mRNA coding for a related cadherin, E-cadherin, that is normally expressed at the gastrula stage in the embryonic ectoderm.

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