The developmental strategies used by progenitor cells to allow a safe journey from their induction place towards the site of terminal differentiation are still poorly understood. Here, we uncovered a mechanism of progenitor cell allocation that stems from an incomplete process of epithelial delamination that allows progenitors to coordinate their movement with adjacent extra-embryonic tissues. Progenitors of the zebrafish laterality organ originate from the superficial epithelial enveloping layer by an apical constriction process of cell delamination. During this process, progenitors retain long-lasting apical contacts that enable the epithelial layer to pull a subset of progenitors on their way to the vegetal pole. The remaining delaminated cells follow the movement of apically attached progenitors by a protrusion-dependent cell-cell contact mechanism, avoiding sequestration by the adjacent endoderm, ensuring their collective fate and allocation at the site of differentiation. Thus, we reveal that incomplete delamination serves as a cellular platform for coordinated tissue movements during development.
Keywords: apical constriction; cell delamination; collective locomotion; developmental biology; dorsal forerunner cells; dragging; mechanical forces; zebrafish.
© 2021, Pulgar et al.