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Dev Biol. 2010 May 1;341(1):114-25. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2009.10.031. Epub 2009 Oct 27.

Pulsation and stabilization: contractile forces that underlie morphogenesis.

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Department of Molecular Biology, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA.


Embryonic development involves global changes in tissue shape and architecture that are driven by cell shape changes and rearrangements within cohesive cell sheets. Morphogenetic changes at the cell and tissue level require that cells generate forces and that these forces are transmitted between the cells of a coherent tissue. Contractile forces generated by the actin-myosin cytoskeleton are critical for morphogenesis, but the cellular and molecular mechanisms of contraction have been elusive for many cell shape changes and movements. Recent studies that have combined live imaging with computational and biophysical approaches have provided new insights into how contractile forces are generated and coordinated between cells and tissues. In this review, we discuss our current understanding of the mechanical forces that shape cells, tissues, and embryos, emphasizing the different modes of actomyosin contraction that generate various temporal and spatial patterns of force generation.

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