P19 embryonal carcinoma cells provide an in vitro model system to analyze the events involved in neural differentiation. These multipotential stem cells can be induced by retinoic acid (RA) to differentiate into neural cells. We have investigated the ability of several variant forms of the protein-tyrosine kinase (PTK) pp60src to modulate cell fate determination in this system. Normally, P19 cells are induced to differentiate along a neural lineage when allowed to form extensive cell-cell contacts in large multicellular aggregates during exposure to RA. Through analysis of markers of epithelial (keratin and desmosomal proteins) and neuronal (neurofilament) cells we have found that RA-induced P19 cells transiently express epithelial markers before neuronal differentiation. Under these inductive conditions, expression of pp60v-src or expression of the neuronal variant pp60c-src+ inhibited neuronal differentiation, and resulted in maintained expression of an epithelial phenotype. Morphological analysis showed that expression of pp60src PTKs results in decreased cell-cell adhesion during the critical cell aggregation stage of the neural differentiation procedure. The effects of pp60v-src on cell fate and cell-cell adhesion could be mimicked by direct modulation of Ca+(+)-dependent cell-cell contact during RA induction of normal P19 cells. We conclude that the neural lineage of P19 cells includes an early epithelial intermediate and suggest that tyrosine phosphorylation can modulate cell fate determination during an early cell-cell adhesion-dependent event in neurogenesis.

This content is only available as a PDF.