How mechanical forces shape the developing eye

Prog Biophys Mol Biol. 2018 Sep:137:25-36. doi: 10.1016/j.pbiomolbio.2018.01.004. Epub 2018 Feb 9.


In the vertebrate embryo, the eyes develop from optic vesicles that grow laterally outward from the brain tube and contact the overlying surface ectoderm. Within the region of contact, each optic vesicle and the surface ectoderm thicken to form placodes, which then invaginate to create the optic cup and lens pit, respectively. Eventually, the optic cup becomes the retina, while the lens pit closes to form the lens vesicle. Here, we review current hypotheses for the physical mechanisms that create these structures and present novel three-dimensional computer (finite-element) models to illustrate the plausibility and limitations of these hypotheses. Taken together, experimental and numerical results suggest that the driving forces for early eye morphogenesis are generated mainly by differential growth, actomyosin contraction, and regional apoptosis, with morphology mediated by physical constraints provided by adjacent tissues and extracellular matrix. While these studies offer new insight into the mechanics of eye development, future work is needed to better understand how these mechanisms are regulated to precisely control the shape of the eye.

Keywords: Biomechanics; Computational model; Lens; Morphogenesis; Optic cup; Optic vesicle.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Eye / anatomy & histology
  • Eye / growth & development*
  • Humans
  • Lens, Crystalline / anatomy & histology
  • Lens, Crystalline / growth & development
  • Mechanical Phenomena*