The trafficking of primordial germ cells (PGCs) across multiple embryonic structures to the nascent gonads ensures the transmission of genetic information to the next generation through the gametes, yet our understanding of the mechanisms underlying PGC migration remains incomplete. Here we identify a role for the receptor tyrosine kinase-like protein Ror2 in PGC development. In a Ror2 mouse mutant we isolated in a genetic screen, PGC migration and survival are dysregulated, resulting in a diminished number of PGCs in the embryonic gonad. A similar phenotype in Wnt5a mutants suggests that Wnt5a acts as a ligand to Ror2 in PGCs, although we do not find evidence that WNT5A functions as a PGC chemoattractant. We show that cultured PGCs undergo polarization, elongation, and reorientation in response to the chemotactic factor SCF (secreted KitL), whereas Ror2 PGCs are deficient in these SCF-induced responses. In the embryo, migratory PGCs exhibit a similar elongated geometry, whereas their counterparts in Ror2 mutants are round. The protein distribution of ROR2 within PGCs is asymmetric, both in vitro and in vivo; however, this asymmetry is lost in Ror2 mutants. Together these results indicate that Ror2 acts autonomously to permit the polarized response of PGCs to KitL. We propose a model by which Wnt5a potentiates PGC chemotaxis toward secreted KitL by redistribution of Ror2 within the cell.
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