We have isolated migrating primordial germ cells (PGCs) from 10.5-day mouse embryos and studied their behaviour when cultured on a mouse embryo fibroblast (STO) cell line. Living and fixed PGCs were identified by fluorescent labelling with a monoclonal antibody specific for PGCs in the culture system used. The behaviour of the cells was studied using interference reflexion microscopy (IRM) and time-lapse video cinematography. The IRM pattern displayed by PGCs is typical of highly motile cell types, the cells lack focal contacts and possess large areas of close contacts indicative of weak membrane to substrate interaction. The PGCs exhibit relatively high rates of translocation and lack contact inhibition. They were observed to underlap STO cells in subconfluent monolayers and to penetrate between the cells of confluent monolayers, becoming located between the monolayer and its substrate. These observations support the hypothesis that migrating mouse PGCs are inherently motile and are able transiently to disrupt the adhesion of surrounding cells. These results suggest that PGCs actively migrate to the developing gonad in vivo.

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