Two putative receptors for fibroblast growth factor (FGF) of approximately 150 and 200 kD were identified in membrane preparations from chick embryos. Specific binding (femtomoles/milligram) of 125I-aFGF to whole chick embryonic membranes was relatively constant from day 2 to 7, then decreased fivefold between days 7 and 13. Day-19 chick embryos retained 125I-aFGF binding at low levels to brain, eye, and liver tissues but not to skeletal muscle or cardiac tissues. The 200-kD FGF receptor began to decline between day 4.5 and 7 and was barely detectable by day 9, whereas the 150-kD FGF receptor began to decline by day 7 but was still detectable in day-9 embryonic membranes. It is not known whether the two FGF-binding proteins represent altered forms of one polypeptide, but it is clear that their levels undergo differential changes during development. Because endogenous chick FGF may remain bound to FGF receptor in membrane preparations, membranes were treated with acidic (pH 4.0) buffers to release bound FGF; such treatment did not affect 125I-aFGF binding and moderately increased the number of binding sites in day-7 and -19 embryos. Consequently, the observed loss of high affinity 125I-aFGF binding sites and FGF-binding polypeptides most likely represents a loss of FGF receptor protein. These experiments provide in vivo evidence to support the hypothesis that regulation of FGF receptor levels may function as a mechanism for controlling FGF-dependent processes during embryonic development.

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