A calcium-binding motif in SPARC/osteonectin inhibits chordomesoderm cell migration during Xenopus laevis gastrulation: Evidence of counter-adhesive activity in vivo



Secreted protein, acidic, rich in cysteine (SPARC) is a Ca2+-binding, counter-adhesive, extracellular glycoprotein associated with major morphogenic events and tissue remodeling in vertebrates. In Xenopus laevis embryos, SPARC is expressed first by dorsal mesoderm cells at the end of gastrulation and undergoes complex, rapid changes in its pattern of expression during early organogenesis. Another study has reported that precocious expression of SPARC by injection of native protein into the blastocoele cavity of pregastrula embryos leads to a concentration-dependent reduction in anterior development. Thus, normal development requires that the timing, spatial distribution, and/or levels of SPARC be regulated precisely. In a previous study, we demonstrated that injection of a synthetic peptide corresponding to the C-terminal, Ca2+-binding, EF-hand domain of SPARC (peptide 4.2) mimicked the effects of native SPARC. In the present investigation, peptide 4.2 was used to examine the cellular and molecular bases of the phenotypes generated by the aberrant presence of SPARC. Exposure of late blastula embryos to LiCl also generated a concentration-dependent reduction in anterior development; therefore, injections of LiCl were carried out in parallel to highlight the unique effects of peptide 4.2 on early development. At concentrations that caused a similar loss in anterior development (60–100 ng peptide 4.2 or 0.25–0.4 μg LiCl), LiCl had a greater inhibitory effect on the initial rate of chordomesoderm cell involution, in comparison with peptide 4.2. However, as gastrulation progressed, peptide 4.2 had a greater inhibitory effect on prospective head mesoderm migration than that seen in the presence of LiCl. Moreover, peptide 4.2 and LiCl had distinct influences on the expression pattern of dorso-anterior markers at the neural and tail-bud stages of development. Scanning electron microscopy showed that peptide 4.2 inhibited spreading of migrating cells at the leading edge of the involuting chordomesoderm. While still in close proximity to the blastocoele roof, many of the cells appeared rounded and lacked lamellipodia and filopodia extended in the direction of migration. In contrast, LiCl had no effect on the spreading or shape of involuting cells. These data are the first evidence of a counter-adhesive activity for peptide 4.2 in vivo, an activity demonstrated for both native SPARC and peptide 4.2 in vitro.