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Curr Top Dev Biol. 2009;89:55-85. doi: 10.1016/S0070-2153(09)89003-0.

How the cytoskeleton helps build the embryonic body plan: models of morphogenesis from Drosophila.

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Department of Cell and Systems Biology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


One key challenge for cell and developmental biologists is to determine how the cytoskeletal toolkit is used to build embryonic tissues and organs. Here, we review recent progress in meeting this challenge, focusing on epithelial morphogenesis in the Drosophila embryo as a model. We outline how actin and microtubule networks are regulated by embryonic patterning systems, and how they affect cell shape, cell behavior, and cell-cell interactions to shape epithelial structures. We focus on the formation of the first epithelium at cellularization, the assembly of junctions, apical constriction of cells in the ventral furrow, cell intercalation in the germband, and epithelial sheet migration during dorsal closure. These events provide models for uncovering the cell biological basis of morphogenesis.

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