Two distinct cadherin cDNA clones of Xenopus laevis were isolated from a stage 17 embryo cDNA library. Analysis of the complete deduced amino acid sequences indicated that one of these molecules is closely homologous to chicken and mouse N-cadherin, while the other displays comparable homology to both E- and P-cadherins and was thus denoted EP-cadherin. This molecule has an apparent relative molecular mass of 125 × 10(3) (compared to approx. 138 × 10(3) or approx. 140 × 10(3) of E-cadherin and N-cadherins, respectively). Northern and Western blot analyses indicated that N-cadherin is first expressed at the neurula stage while EP-cadherin is the only cadherin detected in unfertilized eggs and cleavage stage embryos. Immunolabeling of Xenopus eggs with antibodies prepared against a fusion protein, containing a segment of EP-cadherin, indicated that the protein is highly enriched at the periphery of the animal hemisphere. EP-cadherin was also found in A6 epithelial cells derived from Xenopus kidneys, and was apparently localized in the intercellular adherens junctions.
Exposure of isolated Xenopus animal pole ectoderm to the XTC mesoderm-inducing factor (XTC-MIF) causes the tissue to undergo gastrulation-like movements. In this paper, we take advantage of this observation to investigate the control of various aspects of gastrulation in Xenopus. Blastomeres derived from induced animal pole regions are able, like marginal zone cells, but unlike control animal pole blastomeres, to spread and migrate on a fibronectin-coated surface. Dispersed animal pole cells are also able to respond to XTC-MIF in this way; this is one of the few mesoderm-specific responses to induction that has been observed in single cells. The ability of induced animal pole cells to spread on fibronectin is abolished by the peptide GRGDSP. However, the elongation of intact explants is unaffected by this peptide. This may indicate that fibronectin-mediated cell migration is not required for convergent extension. We have investigated the molecular basis of XTC-MIF-induced gastrulation-like movements by measuring rates of synthesis of fibronectin and of the integrin beta 1 chain in induced and control explants. No significant differences were observed, and this suggests that gastrulation is not initiated simply by control of synthesis of these molecules. In future work, we intend to investigate synthesis of other integrin subunits and to examine possible post-translational modifications to fibronectin and the integrins.