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Trends Genet. 2008 May;24(5):221-30. doi: 10.1016/j.tig.2008.02.005. Epub 2008 Mar 28.

Epithelial morphogenesis in embryos: asymmetries, motors and brakes.

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IGBMC, CNRS/INSERM/ULP, BP. 10142, 67404 Illkirch Cedex, France.


Epithelial cells play a central role in many embryonic morphogenetic processes, during which they undergo highly coordinated cell shape changes. Here, we review some common principles that have recently emerged through genetic and cellular analyses performed mainly with invertebrate genetic models, focusing on morphogenetic processes involving epithelial sheets. All available data argue that myosin II is the main motor that induces cell shape changes during morphogenesis. We discuss the control of myosin II activity during epithelial morphogenesis, as well as the recently described involvement of microtubules in this process. Finally, we examine how forces unleashed by myosin II can be measured, how embryos use specific brakes to control molecular motors and the potential input of mechano-sensation in morphogenesis.

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