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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Molecular and Cellular Biology

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Dominique Alfandari

Second Advisor

Craig Albertson

Third Advisor

Rafael Fissore

Fourth Advisor

Scott Garman and David Gross

Subject Categories

Developmental Biology


During development, a multi-potent group of cells known as the cranial neural crest (CNC) migrate to form craniofacial structures. Proper migration of these cells requires proteolysis of cell adhesion molecules, such as cadherins. In Xenopus laevis, preventing extracellular cleavage of cadherin-11 impairs CNC migration. However, overexpression of the soluble cleavage product (EC1-3) is capable of rescuing this phenotype. The mechanism by which EC1-3 promotes CNC migration has not been investigated until now. Here we show that EC1-3 stimulates phosphorylation of Akt, a target of PI3K, in X.laevis CNC. Through immunoprecipitation experiments, we determined that EC1-3 interacts with all ErbB receptors, PDGFRα, and FGFR1. Of these receptors, only ErbB2 was able to produce an increase in Akt phosphorylation upon treatment with a recombinant EC1-3. This increase was abrogated by mubritinib, an inhibitor of ErbB2. We were able to recapitulate this decrease in Akt phosphorylation in vivo by knocking down ErbB2 in CNC cells. Knockdown of the receptor also significantly reduced CNC migration in vivo. We confirmed the importance of ErbB2 and ErbB receptor signaling in CNC migration using mubritinib and canertinib, respectively. Mubritinib and the PI3K inhibitor LY294002 significantly decreased cell migration while canertinib nearly prevented it altogether. These data show that ErbB2 and Akt are important for CNC migration and implicate other ErbB receptors and Akt-independent signaling pathways. Our findings provide the first example of a functional interaction between the extracellular domain of a type II classical cadherin and growth factor receptors in an animal model.