Epithelial machines that shape the embryo

Trends Cell Biol. 2012 Feb;22(2):82-7. doi: 10.1016/j.tcb.2011.10.005. Epub 2011 Nov 28.


Embryonic form and the shape of many organs are the product of forces acting within and on epithelial sheets. Analysis of these processes requires both consideration of the mechanical operation of these multicellular machines and an understanding of how epithelial sheets are integrated with surrounding tissues. From the diverse array of epithelial morphogenetic movements seen during embryogenesis we review examples of epithelial sheet bending, Drosophila ventral furrow formation and ascidian gastrulation, and direct measurements of epithelial mechanics from Xenopus laevis. We present these examples as works-in-progress and highlight opportunities for future studies into both the direct consequence of force production and embryonic tissue mechanics and potential roles of signaling from biomechanical processes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / cytology*
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / metabolism
  • Epithelial Cells / cytology*
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction