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Dev Dyn. 2010 Jun;239(6):1739-47. doi: 10.1002/dvdy.22312.

Cellular dynamics of epithelial clefting during branching morphogenesis of the mouse submandibular gland.

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Department of Anatomy, Kitasato University School of Allied Health Sciences, Minami-ku, Sagamihara, Japan.


We cultured the rudimental submandibular gland (SMG) of mice with a non-cell-permeable fluorescent tracer, and observed cell behavior during epithelial branching morphogenesis using confocal time-lapse microscopy. We traced movements of individual cells as shadowgraph movies. Individual epithelial cells migrated dynamically but erratically. The epithelial cleft extended by wiggling and separated a cluster of cells into two buds during branching. We examined the ultrastructure of the clefts in SMG rudiments treated with the laminin peptide A5G77f, which induces epithelial clefting. A short cytoplasmic shelf with a core of microfilaments was found at the deep end of the cleft. We propose that epithelial clefting involves a dynamic movement of cells at the base of the cleft, and the formation of a shelf within a cleft cell. The shelf might form a matrix attachment point at the base of the cleft with a core of microfilaments driving cleft elongation.

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