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Dev Biol. 2010 Aug 15;344(2):941-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2010.06.010. Epub 2010 Jun 14.

Dynamic imaging of mammalian neural tube closure.

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HHMI, Department of Pediatrics, Molecular Biology Graduate Program, University of Colorado Denver, Aurora, CO 80045, USA.


Neurulation, the process of neural tube formation, is a complex morphogenetic event. In the mammalian embryo, an understanding of the dynamic nature of neurulation has been hampered due to its in utero development. Here we use laser point scanning confocal microscopy of a membrane expressed fluorescent protein to visualize the dynamic cell behaviors comprising neural tube closure in the cultured mouse embryo. In particular, we have focused on the final step wherein the neural folds approach one another and seal to form the closed neural tube. Our unexpected findings reveal a mechanism of closure in the midbrain different from the zipper-like process thought to occur more generally. Individual non-neural ectoderm cells on opposing sides of the neural folds undergo a dramatic change in shape to protrude from the epithelial layer and then form intermediate closure points to "button-up" the folds. Cells from the juxtaposed neural folds extend long and short flexible extensions and form bridges across the physical gap of the closing folds. Thus, the combination of live embryo culture with dynamic imaging provides intriguing insight into the cell biological processes that mold embryonic tissues in mammals.

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