Conserved role of matrix metalloproteases 2 and 9 in promoting the migration of neural crest cells in avian and mammalian embryos

Rotem Kalev-Altman, Erez Hanael, Einat Zelinger, Martin Blum, Efrat Monsonego-Ornan*, Dalit Sela-Donenfeld

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Neural crest cells (NCCs) are a unique embryonic cell population that initially reside at the dorsal neural tube but later migrate in the embryo and differentiate into multiple types of derivatives. To acquire motility, NCCs undergo epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition and invade the surrounding extracellular matrix (ECM). Matrix metalloproteases (MMPs) are a large family of proteases which regulate migration of various embryonic and adult cells via ECM remodeling. The gelatinase's subgroup of MMPs is the most studied one due to its key role in metastasis. As it is composed of only two proteases, MMP2 and MMP9, it is important to understand whether each is indispensable or redundant in its biological function. Here we explored the role of the gelatinases in executing NCC migration, by determining whether MMP2 and/or MMP9 regulate migration across species in singular, combined, or redundant manners. Chick and mouse embryos were utilized to compare expression and activity of both MMPs using genetic and pharmacological approaches in multiple in vivo and ex vivo assays. Both MMPs were found to be expressed and active in mouse and chick NCCs. Inhibition of each MMP was sufficient to prevent NCC migration in both species. Yet, NCC migration was maintained in MMP2−/− or MMP9−/− mouse mutants due to compensation between the gelatinases, but reciprocal pharmacological inhibition in each mutant prevented NCC migration. This study reveals for the first time that both gelatinases are expressed in avian and mammalian NCCs, and demonstrates their fundamental and conserved role in promoting embryonic cell migration.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)5240-5261
Number of pages22
JournalFASEB Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We wish to thank John Martignetti for providing the MMP2-null mice and Yuval Cinnamon for fruitful discussions. The study was funded by the Ministry of Health, Chief Scientist Fund, (grant No. 3-0000-33793). The joint research program of the University of Hohenheim and the Hebrew University and by Israel Science Foundation (grant No. 1252/19). RKA fellowship was funded by The Einstein Kaye Foundation.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology


  • EMT
  • MMP2
  • MMP9
  • cell migration
  • chick embryo
  • gelatinases
  • mouse embryo


Dive into the research topics of 'Conserved role of matrix metalloproteases 2 and 9 in promoting the migration of neural crest cells in avian and mammalian embryos'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this