Molecular mechanisms of cell shape changes that contribute to vertebrate neural tube closure

Dev Growth Differ. 2012 Apr;54(3):266-76. doi: 10.1111/j.1440-169X.2012.01346.x.


During early development of the central nervous system, the neuroepithelial cells undergo dynamic changes in shape, cumulative action of which cause the neural plate to bend mediolaterally to form the neural tube. The apicobasal elongation changes the cuboidal cells into columnar ones, whereas apical constriction minimizes the cell apices, causing them to adopt wedge-like shapes. To achieve the morphological changes required for the formation of a hollow structure, these cellular changes must be controlled in time and space. To date, it is widely accepted that spatial and temporal changes of the cytoskeletal organization are fundamental to epithelial cell shape changes, and that noncetrosomal microtubules assembled along apicobasal axis and actin filaments and non-muscle myosin II at the apical side are central machineries of cell elongation and apical constriction, respectively. Hence, especially in the last decade, intracellular mechanisms regulating these cytoskeletons have been extensively investigated at the molecular level. As a result, several actin-binding proteins, Rho/ROCK pathway, and cell-cell adhesion molecules have been proven to be the central regulators of apical constriction, while the regulatory mechanisms of cell elongation remain obscure. In this review, we first describe the distribution and role of cytoskeleton in cell shape changes during neural tube closure, and then summarize the current knowledge about the intracellular proteins that directly modulate the cytoskeletal organization and thus the neural tube closure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Patterning
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules, Neuronal / physiology*
  • Cell Enlargement
  • Cell Shape*
  • Cytoskeleton / physiology
  • Humans
  • Microfilament Proteins / physiology
  • Neural Tube / cytology*
  • Neural Tube / embryology
  • Neural Tube / growth & development
  • Neuroepithelial Cells / cytology
  • Neuroepithelial Cells / physiology
  • Neurulation
  • Synaptic Transmission
  • Vertebrates / embryology*
  • Vertebrates / growth & development
  • rho GTP-Binding Proteins / physiology


  • Cell Adhesion Molecules, Neuronal
  • Microfilament Proteins
  • rho GTP-Binding Proteins