Weidinger, G., Wolke, U., Köprunner, M., Thisse, C., Thisse, B. and Raz, E. (2002) Regulation of zebrafish primordial germ cell migration by attraction towards an intermediate target. Development (Cambridge, England). 129:25-36.
Migration of primordial germ cells (PGCs) from their site of specification towards the developing gonad is controlled by directional cues from somatic tissues. Although in several animals the PGCs are attracted by signals emanating from their final target, the gonadal mesoderm, little is known about the mechanisms that control earlier steps of migration. We provide evidence that a key step of zebrafish PGC migration, in which the PGCs become organized into bilateral clusters in the anterior trunk, is regulated by attraction of PGCs towards an intermediate target. Time-lapse observations of wild-type and mutant embryos reveal that bilateral clusters are formed at early somitogenesis, owing to migration of PGCs towards the clustering position from medial, posterior and anterior regions. Furthermore, PGCs migrate actively relative to their somatic neighbors and they do so as individual cells. Using mutants that exhibit defects in mesoderm development, we show that the ab! ility to form PGC clusters depends on proper differentiation of the somatic cells present at the clustering position. Based on these findings, we propose that these somatic cells produce signals that attract PGCs. Interestingly, fate-mapping shows that these cells do not give rise to the somatic tissues of the gonad, but rather contribute to the formation of the pronephros. Thus, the putative PGC attraction center serves as an intermediate target for PGCs, which later actively migrate towards a more posterior position. This final step of PGC migration is defective in hands off mutants, where the intermediate mesoderm of the presumptive gonadal region is mispatterned. Our results indicate that zebrafish PGCs are guided by attraction towards two signaling centers, one of which may represent the somatic tissues of the gonad. Movies available on-line