Embryonic mesoderm cells spread in response to platelet-derived growth factor and signaling by phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase.
Abnormal mesoderm movement, leading to defects in axial organization, is observed in mouse and Xenopus laevis embryos deprived of platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) AA signaling. However, neither the cellular response to PDGF nor the signaling pathways involved are understood. Herein we describe an in vitro assay to examine the direct effect of PDGF AA on aggregates of Xenopus embryonic mesoderm cells. We find that PDGF AA stimulates aggregates to spread on fibronectin. This behavior is similar to that of migrating mesoderm cells in vivo that spread and form lamellipodia and filipodia on contact with fibronectin-rich extracellular matrix. We go on to show two lines of evidence that implicate phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) as an important component of PDGF-induced mesoderm cell spreading. (i) The fungal metabolite wortmannin, which inhibits signaling by PI3K, blocks mesoderm spreading in response to PDGF AA. (ii) Activation of a series of receptors with specific tyrosine-to-phenylalanine mutations revealed PDGF-induced spreading of mesoderm cells depends on PI3K but not on other signaling molecules that interact with PDGF receptors including phospholipase C gamma, Ras GTPase-activating protein, and phosphotyrosine phosphatase SHPTP2. These results indicate that a PDGF signal, medicated by PI3K, can facilitate embryonic mesoderm cell spreading on fibronectin. We propose that PDGF, produced by the ectoderm, influences the adhesive properties of the adjacent mesoderm cells during gastrulation.