• cell adhesion;
  • FAK;
  • PYK2;
  • Paxillin;
  • chick embryo


We have examined the relationship between the in vivo and in vitro expression of three adhesion-signaling proteins (FAK, PYK2 and Paxillin), using cells of the early chick embryo, where pure cell populations may be isolated and cultured, and in which epithelial-to-mesenchymal transformation is occurring. Focal Adhesion Kinase (FAK) and Proline-rich Tyrosine Kinase-2 (PYK2) are related in molecular structure, and may have some overlapping functions in signal transduction associated with cell-substratum adhesion. Paxillin, a cytoskeletal protein, is also localized to focal adhesions. We show that the immunocytochemical detection of these molecules in vivo does not reflect their in vitro localization. Focal Adhesion Kinase showed a developmentally regulated localization to the cytoplasm, but not to sites of adhesion, in epithelial cells in vivo, while Paxillin was associated with migrating mesoderm cells. Proline-rich Tyrosine Kinase-2 was undetectable in vivo. The level of expression of these molecules was compared under in vivo and in vitro conditions. While the expression of Focal Adhesion Kinase showed a tissue-specific regulation of expression with the change to in vitro conditions, Proline-rich Tyrosine Kinase-2 showed a more uniform and less tissue-specific up-regulation. Levels of Paxillin expression also showed an increase with this change in conditions. We conclude that despite the structural and functional relationships between these three molecules in the developing embryo, the expression and localization of each is independently regulated. We suggest that this provides these cells with the adaptability that they require in order to respond to the changing extracellular environment in the early embryo, and to undergo epithelial-to-mesenchymal transformation.