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This article has been peer reviewed. It is the author’s final published version in Development (Cambridge), Volume 143, Issue 1, January 2016, Pages 88-100.

The published version is available at DOI: 10.1242/dev.125286. Copyright © The Company of Biologists Ltd.


The chemical and mechanical properties of extracellular matrices (ECMs) modulate diverse aspects of cellular fates; however, how regional heterogeneity in ECM composition regulates developmental programs is not well understood. We discovered that fibronectin 1 (Fn1) is expressed in strikingly non-uniform patterns during mouse development, suggesting that regionalized synthesis of the ECM plays cell-specific regulatory roles during embryogenesis. To test this hypothesis, we ablated Fn1 in the neural crest (NC), a population of multi-potent progenitors expressing high levels of Fn1. We found that Fn1 synthesized by the NC mediated morphogenesis of the aortic arch artery and differentiation of NC cells into vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) by regulating Notch signaling. We show that NC Fn1 signals in an NC cell-autonomous manner through integrin α5β1 expressed by the NC, leading to activation of Notch and differentiation of VSMCs. Our data demonstrate an essential role of the localized synthesis of Fn1 in cardiovascular development and spatial regulation of Notch signaling.

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