Matrix metalloproteinase inhibitors disrupt spicule formation by primary mesenchyme cells in the sea urchin embryo

Eric P. Ingersoll, Fred H. Wilt

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The primary mesenchyme cells of the sea urchin embryo construct an elaborate calcareous endoskeletal spicule beginning at gastrulation. This process begins by ingression of prospective primary mesenchyme cells into the blastocoel, after which they migrate and then fuse to form a syncytium. Skeleton deposition occurs in spaces enclosed by the cytoplasmic cables between the cell bodies. Experiments are described which probe the role of proteases in these early events of spicule formation and their role in the continued elaboration of the spicule during later stages of embryogenesis. We find that several inhibitors of metalloproteinases inhibit the continuation of spiculogenesis, an effect first reported by Roe et al. (Exp. Cell Res. 181, 542-550, 1989). A detailed study of one of these inhibitors, BB-94, shows that fusion of primary mesenchyme cells still occurs in the presence of the inhibitor and the formation of the first calcite granule is not impeded. Continued elaboration of the spicule, however, is completely stopped; addition of the inhibitor during the active elongation of the spicule stops further elongation immediately. Removal of the inhibitor allows resumption of spicule growth. The inhibition is accompanied by almost complete cessation of massive Ca ion transport via the primary mesenchyme cells to the spicule. The inhibitor does not prevent the continued synthesis of several spicule matrix proteins. Electron microscopic examination of inhibited primary mesenchyme cells shows an accumulation of characteristic vesicles in the cytoplasm. Gel zymography demonstrates that although most proteases in homogenates of primary mesenchyme cells are not sensitive to the inhibitor in vitro, a protease of low abundance detectable in the medium of cultured primary mesenchyme cells is inhibited by BB-94. We propose that the inhibitor is interfering with the delivery of precipitated calcium carbonate and matrix proteins to the site(s) of spicule growth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)95-106
Number of pages12
JournalDevelopmental biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 1 1998

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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