Retention of Stem Cell Plasticity in Avian Primitive Streak Cells and the Effects of Local Microenvironment


Correspondence to: Jian-Guo Geng, Department of Biologic and Materials Sciences, University of Michigan School of Dentistry, Ann Arbor, MI 48109. Fax: +1-734-763-5481. E-mail: Xuesong Yang, Key Laboratory for Regenerative Medicine of the Ministry of Education, Medical College of Jinan University, Guangzhou 510632, China. Fax: +86-20-85228316. E-mail:


Primitive streak (PS) is the first structure occurring in embryonic gastrulation, in which the epiblast cells undergo the epithelial-mesenchymal transition to become the loose mesoderm cells subsequently. Because the mesoderm cells departing from different portions of PS are blessed with disparate migration trajectory and differentiation fate, one question is when the cell fate is determinated. To understand whether the cell fate and cell migration pattern will be alternated along with the microenvironment transformation, the traditional transplantation technology was used to replace the anterior PS cells in HH4 host embryo using posterior PS tissue labeled by green fluorescent protein (GFP) in the same stage donor embryo, and then, we tracked the migration trajectory of the GFP-positive cells with fluorescence stereomicroscope after incubation, and eventually verified the cell contribution from the transplants with in situ hybridization and immunocytochemistry. The same experimental strategy applied for posterior PS site replacement in host embryo. We found that the transplanted posterior PS cells to anterior part of streak followed the anterior PS cell migration pattern rather than kept its posterior streak cell migration trajectory, and so did vice versa. In addition, the transplants were involved in the contribution to the subsequent organogenesis as the local PS tissues affirmed by specific expression of myocardial or hematopoietic markers. Therefore, our data strongly suggest that the PS cells still keep stem cell plasticity during gastrulation and the eventual cell fate will depend on the spatial gene expression within local microenvironment along with development. Anat Rec, 296:533–543, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.