Forces Driving Epithelial Spreading in Zebrafish Gastrulation

Science  12 Oct 2012:
Vol. 338, Issue 6104, pp. 257-260
DOI: 10.1126/science.1224143

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Embryonic Cell Sorting and Movement

Differential cell adhesion has long been thought to drive cell sorting. Maître et al. (p. 253, published online 23 August) show that cell sorting in zebrafish gastrulation is triggered by differences in the ability of cells to modulate cortex tension at cell-cell contacts, thereby controlling contact expansion. Cell adhesion functions in this process by mechanically coupling the cortices of adhering cells at their contacts, allowing cortex tension to control contact expansion. In zebrafish epiboly the enveloping cell layer (EVL)—a surface epithelium formed at the animal pole of the gastrula—gradually spreads over the entire yolk cell to engulf it at the end of gastrulation. Behrndt et al. (p. 257) show that an actomyosin ring connected to the epithelial margin triggers EVL spreading both by contracting around its circumference and by generating a pulling force through resistance against retrograde actomyosin flow.


Contractile actomyosin rings drive various fundamental morphogenetic processes ranging from cytokinesis to wound healing. Actomyosin rings are generally thought to function by circumferential contraction. Here, we show that the spreading of the enveloping cell layer (EVL) over the yolk cell during zebrafish gastrulation is driven by a contractile actomyosin ring. In contrast to previous suggestions, we find that this ring functions not only by circumferential contraction but also by a flow-friction mechanism. This generates a pulling force through resistance against retrograde actomyosin flow. EVL spreading proceeds normally in situations where circumferential contraction is unproductive, indicating that the flow-friction mechanism is sufficient. Thus, actomyosin rings can function in epithelial morphogenesis through a combination of cable-constriction and flow-friction mechanisms.

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