Primordial germ cells are the founder cells of the gametes. They are set aside at the initial stages of gastrulation in mammals, become embedded in the hind-gut endoderm, then actively migrate to the sites of gonad formation. The molecular basis of this migration is poorly understood. Here we sought to determine if members of the integrin family of cell surface receptors are required for primordial germ cell migration, as integrins have been implicated in the migration of several other motile cell types. We have established a line of mice which express green fluorescent protein in germline cells that has enabled us to efficiently purify primordial germ cells at different stages by flow cytometry. We have catalogued the spectrum of integrin subunit expression by primordial germ cells during and after migration, using flow cytometry, immunocytochemistry and RT-PCR. Through analysis of integrin beta1(-/-)-->wild-type chimeras, we show that embryonic cells lacking beta1 integrins can enter the germline. However, integrin beta1(-/-) primordial germ cells do not colonize the gonad efficiently. Embryos with targeted deletion of integrin subunit alpha3, alpha6, or alphaV show no major defects in primordial germ cell migration. These results demonstrate a role for beta1-containing integrins in the development of the germline, although an equivalent role for * integrin subunit(s) has yet to be established.
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