We have characterized excisional wounds in the animal cap of early embryos of the frog Xenopus laevis and found that these wounds close accompanied by three distinct processes: (1) the assembly of an actin purse-string in the epithelial cells at the wound margin, (2) contraction and ingression of exposed deep cells, and (3) protrusive activity of epithelial cells at the margin. Microsurgical manipulation allowing fine control over the area and depth of the wound combined with videomicroscopy and confocal analysis enabled us to describe the kinematics and challenge the mechanics of the closing wound. Full closure typically occurs only when the deep, mesenchymal cell-layer of the ectoderm is left intact; in contrast, when deep cells are removed along with the superficial, epithelial cell-layer of the ectoderm, wounds do not close. Actin localizes to the superficial epithelial cell-layer at the wound margin immediately after wounding and forms a contiguous "purse-string" in those cells within 15 min. However, manipulation and closure kinematics of shaped wounds and microsurgical cuts made through the purse-string rule out a major force-generating role for the purse-string. Further analysis of the cell behaviors within the wound show that deep, mesenchymal cells contract their apical surfaces and ingress from the exposed surface. High resolution time-lapse sequences of cells at the leading edge of the wound show that these cells undergo protrusive activity only during the final phases of wound closure as the ectoderm reseals. We propose that assembly of the actin purse-string works to organize and maintain the epithelial sheet at the wound margin, that contraction and ingression of deep cells pulls the wound margins together, and that protrusive activity of epithelial cells at the wound margin reseals the ectoderm and re-establishes tissue integrity during wound healing in the Xenopus embryonic ectoderm.
Copyright 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.