Bakkers, J., Kramer, C., Pothof, J., Quaedvlieg, N.E., Spaink, H.P., and Hammerschmidt, M. (2004) Has2 is required upstream of Rac1 to govern dorsal migration of lateral cells during zebrafish gastrulation. Development (Cambridge, England). 131(3):525-537.
The large extracellular polysaccharide Hyaluronan (HA) and its synthesizing enzymes (Has) have been implicated in regulating the migratory potential of metastatic cancer cells. Here, we analyze the roles of zebrafish Has2 in normal development. Antisense morpholino oligonucleotide (MO)-mediated knockdown of zebrafish Has2 leads to the loss of HA, and severe migratory defects during gastrulation, somite morphogenesis and primordial germ cell migration. During gastrulation, ventrolateral cells of has2 morphant embryos fail to develop lamellipodia and to migrate dorsally, resulting in a blockage of dorsal convergence, whereas extension of the dorsal axis is normal. The effect is cell autonomous, suggesting that HA acts as an autocrine signal to stimulate the migration of HA-generating cells. Upon ectopic expression in axial cells, has2 causes the formation of supernumerary lamellipodia and a blockage of axis extension. Epistasis analyses with constitutively active and dominant-negative versions of the small GTPase Rac1 suggest that HA acts by Rac1 activation, rather than as an essential structural component of the extracellular matrix. Together, our data provide evidence that convergence and extension are separate morphogenetic movements of gastrulation. In addition, they suggest that the same HA pathways are active to auto-stimulate cell migration during tumor invasion and vertebrate embryogenesis.