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Bioessays. 2004 Dec;26(12):1272-5.

Getting an embryo into shape.

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Abt. Biochemie, Universität Ulm, Albert-Einstein-Allee 11, D-89081 Ulm, Germany.


Formation of a multicellular organism is a complex process involving differentiation and morphogenesis. During early vertebrate development, the radial symmetric organization of the egg is transferred into a bilateral symmetric organism with three distinct body axes: anteroposterior (AP), dorsoventral, and left-right. Due to cellular movements and proliferation, the body elongates along the AP axis. How are these processes coupled? Two recent publications now indicate that cell migration as well as orientated cell divisions contribute to axis elongation. The processes are coupled through the planar cell polarity pathway.1 At the same time, the AP axis is patterned independently of convergent extension. This process, however, is required for cell migration and represents a cue for polarized cell motility during gastrulation. Thus, it is AP polarity that instructs individual cells how to orientate with respect to the embryonic axis and provides positional information for the process of convergent extension.(2).

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