We describe a new method for analyzing embryonic events dependent on a specific peptide recognition signal. A short, specific amino acid sequence in fibronectin has been implicated as a recognition site in fibronectin-mediated interactions. Fibroblast adhesion to fibronectin is competitively inhibited by certain synthetic peptides, including the decapeptide Arg-Gly-Asp-Ser-Pro-Ala-Ser-Ser-Lys-Pro, which appears to contain the cell recognition sequence. We found that this peptide inhibited both amphibian gastrulation and avian neural crest cell migration in vivo, as well as the attachment and migration of neural crest cells in vitro. These processes are major cell migratory events previously suggested to involve fibronectin. Negative controls included another conserved fibronectin peptide from the collagen-binding region containing the sequence Cys-Gln-Asp-Ser-Glu-Thr-Arg-Thr-Phe-Tyr and another peptide. Our results demonstrate the feasibility of using synthetic peptides directed at recognition sites in extracellular proteins as probes of morphogenetic processes, and they provide further support for the hypothesis that fibronectin is involved in gastrulation and neural crest cell migration.

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