Intercellular invasion is the intrusion of the cells of one tissue into space occupied by a second tissue. The alternative situation to invasion, one characteristic of most coherent tissues, is segregation, with identifiable boundaries existing between contiguous tissues. The interfaces between mesenchymal and myocardial tissues in the developing avian heart show a profoundly different character in different regions of the heart: the interface between epicardial mesenchyme and heart wall myocardium is planar, without intermingling of the two cell types, whereas the interface between endocardial cushion mesenchyme and myocardium is diffuse, with extensive invasion of both tissue types across the border to produce intermingling of the two tissues. Thus, invasion and tissue segregation coexist in different regions of the mesenchyme-myocardium contact zone. Investigation of the involvement of the interstitial matrix in invasion and segregation has been conducted by maintaining the two tissues in mutual contact in organ culture. Investigation of the mechanisms by which the two cell types sort out in randomized chimeric tissue reaggregates has provided insight into the conditions for tissue segregation. We have modeled invasion in organ culture by fusing aggregates of myocardial cells with aggregates of cardiac mesenchymal cells. Cells of both tissues invaded the partner aggregate during a period of 1-3 d of coculture. Both invasion and segregation in the aggregates appear to depend on the presence or absence of a fibronectin-rich interstitial matrix elaborated by the cardiac mesenchyme. During sorting, the matrix appears selectively in regions occupied by the mesenchyme. Under conditions of culture that are nonpermissive for matrix deposition, sorting fails to occur. Stimulation of matrix deposition by addition of serum, transforming growth factor beta, or isolated matrix itself is accompanied by sorting out of the two tissues. Sorting out is blocked reversibly by inclusion of the fibronectin adhesion site peptide, GRGDSP. Invasion of fused aggregates is preceded by a redistribution of the fibronectin-containing matrix of the mesenchymal aggregate such that matrix-poor regions come to occupy the interface with the myocardial partner aggregate. The invasion that ensues involves mesenchymal cells emigrating from, and myocardial cells intruding into, matrix-poor regions of the mesenchymal aggregate.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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