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Development. 1989 Jan;105(1):155-66.

Cell rearrangement and segmentation in Xenopus: direct observation of cultured explants.

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  • 1Department of Zoology, University of California, Berkeley 94720.


We make use of a novel system of explant culture and high resolution video-film recording to analyse for the first time the cell behaviour underlying convergent extension and segmentation in the somitic mesoderm of Xenopus. We find that a sequence of activities sweeps through the somitic mesoderm from anterior to posterior during gastrulation and neurulation, beginning with radial cell intercalation or thinning, continuing with mediolateral intercalation and cell elongation, and culminating in segmentation and somite rotation. Radial intercalation at the posterior tip lengthens the tissue, while mediolateral intercalation farther anterior converges it toward the midline. This extension of the somitic mesoderm helps to elongate the dorsal side of intact neurulae. By separating tissues, we demonstrate that cell rearrangement is independent of the notochord, but radial intercalation - and thus the bulk of extension - requires the presence of an epithelium, either endodermal or ectodermal. Segmentation, on the other hand, can proceed in somitic mesoderm isolated at the end of gastrulation. Finally, we discuss the relationship between cell rearrangement and segmentation.

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