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Cell-matrix adhesion strongly influences developmental signaling. Resulting impacts on cell migration and tissue morphogenesis are well characterized. However, the in vivo impact of adhesion on fate induction remains ambiguous. Here, we employ the invertebrate chordate Ciona intestinalis to delineate an essential in vivo role for matrix adhesion in heart progenitor induction. In Ciona pre-cardiac founder cells, invasion of the underlying epidermis promotes localized induction of the heart progenitor lineage. We found that these epidermal invasions are associated with matrix adhesion along the pre-cardiac cell/epidermal boundary. Through targeted manipulations of RAP GTPase activity, we were able to manipulate pre-cardiac cell-matrix adhesion. Targeted disruption of pre-cardiac cell-matrix adhesion blocked heart progenitor induction. Conversely, increased matrix adhesion generated expanded induction. We were also able to selectively restore cell-matrix adhesion and heart progenitor induction through targeted expression of Ci-Integrin β2. These results indicate that matrix adhesion functions as a necessary and sufficient extrinsic cue for regional heart progenitor induction. Furthermore, time-lapse imaging suggests that cytokinesis acts as an intrinsic temporal regulator of heart progenitor adhesion and induction. Our findings highlight a potentially conserved role for matrix adhesion in early steps of vertebrate heart progenitor specification.


This work is freely available courtesy of Company of Biologists.