During Xenopus gastrulation, platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) receptor-alpha is expressed in involuting marginal zone cells which migrate over ectodermal cells expressing PDGF-A. To investigate the role of PDGF signalling during this process, we have generated a novel point mutant of PDGF receptor-alpha analogous to the W37 mutation of c-kit. This molecule is a specific, potent, dominant inhibitor of PDGF signalling in vivo. Injection of RNA encoding this protein into Xenopus embryos prevents closure of the blastopore, leads to abnormal gastrulation and a loss of anterior structures. Convergent extension is not inhibited in these embryos, but rather, involuting mesodermal cells fail to adhere to the overlying ectoderm. PDGF may therefore be required for mesodermal cell-substratum interaction.

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