• p21-activated kinase;
  • Xenopus;
  • gastrulation;
  • motility;
  • polarity;
  • mesoderm;
  • Cdc42;
  • Rac1;
  • RhoA


The p21 activated kinases (Paks) are prominently involved in the regulation of cell motility. Using a kinase-dead mutant of xPak1, we show that during Xenopus gastrulation, the kinase activity of Pak1 is required upstream of Cdc42 for the establishment of cell polarity in the migrating mesendoderm. Overactivation of Pak1 function by the expression of constitutively active xPak1 compromises the maintenance of cell polarity, by indirectly inhibiting RhoA function. Inhibition of cell polarization does not affect the migration of single mesendoderm cells. However, Pak1 inhibition interferes with the guidance of mesendoderm migration by directional cues residing in the extracellular matrix of the blastocoel roof, and with mesendoderm translocation in the embryo. Developmental Dynamics 238:1709–1726, 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.