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Nat Cell Biol. 2015 Apr;17(4):397-408. doi: 10.1038/ncb3138.

Myosin-II-mediated cell shape changes and cell intercalation contribute to primitive streak formation.

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Division of Cell and Developmental Biology, College of Life Sciences, University of Dundee, Dundee, DD1 5EH, Scotland, UK.
The Roslin Institute, Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Easter Bush, Midlothian, EH25 9RG, UK.
Department Chemie, Technische Universität, Dresden, Bergstrasse 66, 01069 Dresden, Germany.
Division of Physics, School of Engineering, Physics and Mathematics, University of Dundee, Dundee DD1 4HN, Scotland, UK.
Institute for Medical Science and Technology, School of Medicine, University of Dundee, Dundee DD2 1FD, Scotland UK.
Contributed equally


Primitive streak formation in the chick embryo involves large-scale highly coordinated flows of more than 100,000 cells in the epiblast. These large-scale tissue flows and deformations can be correlated with specific anisotropic cell behaviours in the forming mesendoderm through a combination of light-sheet microscopy and computational analysis. Relevant behaviours include apical contraction, elongation along the apical-basal axis followed by ingression, and asynchronous directional cell intercalation of small groups of mesendoderm cells. Cell intercalation is associated with sequential, directional contraction of apical junctions, the onset, localization and direction of which correlate strongly with the appearance of active myosin II cables in aligned apical junctions in neighbouring cells. Use of class specific myosin inhibitors and gene-specific knockdown shows that apical contraction and intercalation are myosin II dependent and also reveal critical roles for myosin I and myosin V family members in the assembly of junctional myosin II cables.

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