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Phys Biol. 2018 Feb 8;15(2):025001. doi: 10.1088/1478-3975/aa8d0e.

Apoptosis generates mechanical forces that close the lens vesicle in the chick embryo.

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Department of Biomedical Engineering, Washington University, St Louis, MO 63130, United States of America.


During the initial stages of eye development, optic vesicles grow laterally outward from both sides of the forebrain and come into contact with the surrounding surface ectoderm (SE). Within the region of contact, these layers then thicken locally to create placodes and invaginate to form the optic cup (primitive retina) and lens vesicle (LV), respectively. This paper examines the biophysical mechanisms involved in LV formation, which consists of three phases: (1) lens placode formation; (2) invagination to create the lens pit (LP); and (3) closure to form a complete ellipsoidally shaped LV. Previous studies have suggested that extracellular matrix deposited between the SE and optic vesicle causes the lens placode to form by locally constraining expansion of the SE as it grows, while actomyosin contraction causes this structure to invaginate. Here, using computational modeling and experiments on chick embryos, we confirm that these mechanisms for Phases 1 and 2 are physically plausible. Our results also suggest, however, that they are not sufficient to close the LP during Phase 3. We postulate that apoptosis provides an additional mechanism by removing cells near the LP opening, thereby decreasing its circumference and generating tension that closes the LP. This hypothesis is supported by staining that shows a ring of cell death located around the LP opening during closure. Inhibiting apoptosis in cultured embryos using caspase inhibitors significantly reduced LP closure, and results from a finite-element model indicate that closure driven by cell death is plausible. Taken together, our results suggest an important mechanical role for apoptosis in lens development.

[Available on 2019-02-08]
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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