Tension-oriented cell divisions limit anisotropic tissue tension in epithelial spreading during zebrafish epiboly

Nat Cell Biol. 2013 Dec;15(12):1405-14. doi: 10.1038/ncb2869. Epub 2013 Nov 10.


Epithelial spreading is a common and fundamental aspect of various developmental and disease-related processes such as epithelial closure and wound healing. A key challenge for epithelial tissues undergoing spreading is to increase their surface area without disrupting epithelial integrity. Here we show that orienting cell divisions by tension constitutes an efficient mechanism by which the enveloping cell layer (EVL) releases anisotropic tension while undergoing spreading during zebrafish epiboly. The control of EVL cell-division orientation by tension involves cell elongation and requires myosin II activity to align the mitotic spindle with the main tension axis. We also found that in the absence of tension-oriented cell divisions and in the presence of increased tissue tension, EVL cells undergo ectopic fusions, suggesting that the reduction of tension anisotropy by oriented cell divisions is required to prevent EVL cells from fusing. We conclude that cell-division orientation by tension constitutes a key mechanism for limiting tension anisotropy and thus promoting tissue spreading during EVL epiboly.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anisotropy
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Cell Division
  • Cell Fusion
  • Cell Polarity
  • Cell Shape
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / cytology*
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / embryology
  • Epithelial Cells / physiology*
  • Epithelium / embryology
  • Gastrulation
  • Models, Biological
  • Myosin Type II / metabolism
  • Zebrafish / embryology*
  • Zebrafish Proteins / metabolism


  • Zebrafish Proteins
  • Myosin Type II