Interaction of α4 integrins with vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (VCAM-1) is classically important for immune function. However, we found recently that these receptors have a second role, in embryogenesis, where they mediate cell-cell interactions that are important for skeletal muscle differentiation. Here, we present evidence of an expanding role for these receptors in murine development. α4 and VCAM-1 were found at embryonic sites of hematopoiesis, suggesting a role for these receptors during embryogenesis that parallels their hematopoietic function in adult bone marrow. During angiogenesis in the lung, α4 and VCAM-1 were found on mesenchyme that gives rise to vascular endothelium and smooth muscle. α4 persisted on the smooth muscle and the endothelium of newly forming vessels where it colocalized with its extracellular matrix ligand, fibronectin (FN). These patterns suggest several roles for α4 integrins and their ligands in angiogenesis. α4 was also found on neural crest derivatives where it colocalized with FN. α4 was expressed selectively on cells in the dorsal root ganglia: it was apparent along ventral projections, but absent from dorsal projections, suggesting that α4 integrins could be involved in defining neuronal fates. Although VCAM-1 was not expressed on most neural crest derivatives, it was found in the neural crest-derived outflow tract of the embryonic heart, where it colocalized with α4. These results imply that α4 integrins and their ligands could be important for migration or differentiation of neural crest. α4 was also expressed on embryonic retina and FN was found on inductive mesenchyme surrounding the eye, suggesting a role for these proteins in eye development. Finally, based on their patterns of expression, we conclude that VCAM-1 only participates in a subset of interactions involving α4 integrins, whereas FN appears to be the more general ligand.
- E, embryonic day
- FN, fibronection
- Mouse development
- VCAM-1, vascular cell adhesion molecule-1
- VWF, von Willebrand Factor