The dorsal marginal zone of the zebrafish blastula, equivalent to the amphibian Spemann organizer, is destined to become the tissues of the notochord and prechordal plate. Preceding gastrulation in the zebrafish, we find that these future mesendodermal cells acquire a cohesive cell behavior characterized by flattening and maximization of intercellular contacts, somewhat resembling cell compaction in mouse blastocysts. This behavior may suppress cell intermingling. Surprisingly, this blastula cell compaction requires normal function of spadetail, a gene known to be necessary for the dorsal convergent cell movement of paraxial mesoderm later in the gastrula. We propose that spadetail-dependent cell compaction subtly controls the early mixing and dispersal of dorsal cells that coalesce into the prospective organizer region. This early process may be necessary for the correct location of the boundary separating axial and paraxial cells.
Copyright 1998 Academic Press.