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Development. 1989 Jul;106(3):427-39.

Roles of neuroepithelial cell rearrangement and division in shaping of the avian neural plate.

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  • 1Department of Anatomy, University of Utah, School of Medicine, Salt Lake City 84132.


Shaping of the neural plate, one of the most striking events of neurulation, involves rapid craniocaudal extension. In this study, we evaluated the roles of two processes in neural plate extension: neuroepithelial cell rearrangement and cell division. Quail epiblast plugs of constant size were grafted either just rostral to Hensen's node or paranodally and the resulting chimeras were examined at selected times postgrafting. By comparing the size of the original plug, the number of cells it contained and the distribution of cells within it to those same features of the grafts in chimeras, we were able to ascertain that, during transformation of the flat neural plate into the closed neural tube (a period requiring 24 h), the graft undergoes a maximum of 3 rounds of craniocaudal extension (each round of craniocaudal extension was defined as a doubling of graft length, so 3 rounds equaled an 8-fold increase in length). Such extension is accompanied by 2 rounds of cell rearrangement and 2-3 rounds of cell division (cell rearrangement occurred mediolaterally, so each round was defined as a halving of the number of cells in the width of the graft and a doubling of the number of cells in its length; each round of cell division was defined as a doubling of graft cell number). Modeling studies demonstrate that these amounts of cell rearrangement and division are sufficient to approximate the shaping of the neural plate that normally ensues during neurulation, provided that some of the cell division occurs within the longitudinal plane of the neural plate and some within its transverse plane: longitudinal cell division results in craniocaudal extension of the neural plate, whereas transverse cell division results in lateral expansion of the neural plate such as that occurring at its cranial end; cell rearrangement results in craniocaudal extension of the neural plate as well as in its narrowing. In conclusion, our results provide evidence that shaping of the neural plate involves mediolateral cell rearrangement and cell division, with the latter occurring within both the longitudinal and transverse planes of the neural plate.

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