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Phys Biol. 2008 Apr 10;5(1):015007. doi: 10.1088/1478-3975/5/1/015007.

The forces that shape embryos: physical aspects of convergent extension by cell intercalation.

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Department of Biology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, USA.


We discuss the physical aspects of the morphogenic process of convergence (narrowing) and extension (lengthening) of tissues by cell intercalation. These movements, often referred to as 'convergent extension', occur in both epithelial and mesenchymal tissues during embryogenesis and organogenesis of invertebrates and vertebrates, and they play large roles in shaping the body plan during development. Our focus is on the presumptive mesodermal and neural tissues of the Xenopus (frog) embryo, tissues for which some physical measurements have been made. We discuss the physical aspects of how polarized cell motility, oriented along future tissue axes, generate the forces that drive oriented cell intercalation and how this intercalation results in convergence and extension or convergence and thickening of the tissue. Our goal is to identify aspects of these morphogenic movements for further biophysical, molecular and cell biological, and modeling studies.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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