Montero, J.A., Carvalho, L., Wilsch-Bräuninger, M., Kilian, B., Mustafa, C., and Heisenberg, C.P. (2005) Shield formation at the onset of zebrafish gastrulation. Development (Cambridge, England). 132(6):1187-1198.
During vertebrate gastrulation, the three germ layers, ectoderm, mesoderm and endoderm are formed, and the resulting progenitor cells are brought into the positions from which they will later contribute more complex tissues and organs. A core element in this process is the internalization of mesodermal and endodermal progenitors at the onset of gastrulation. Although many of the molecules that induce mesendoderm have been identified, much less is known about the cellular mechanisms underlying mesendodermal cell internalization and germ layer formation. Here we show that at the onset of zebrafish gastrulation, mesendodermal progenitors in dorsal/axial regions of the germ ring internalize by single cell delamination. Once internalized, mesendodermal progenitors upregulate E-Cadherin (Cadherin 1) expression, become increasingly motile and eventually migrate along the overlying epiblast (ectodermal) cell layer towards the animal pole of the gastrula. When E-Cadherin function is compromised, mesendodermal progenitors still internalize, but, with gastrulation proceeding, fail to elongate and efficiently migrate along the epiblast, whereas epiblast cells themselves exhibit reduced radial cell intercalation movements. This indicates that cadherin-mediated cell-cell adhesion is needed within the forming shield for both epiblast cell intercalation, and mesendodermal progenitor cell elongation and migration during zebrafish gastrulation. Our data provide insight into the cellular mechanisms underlying mesendodermal progenitor cell internalization and subsequent migration during zebrafish gastrulation, and the role of cadherin-mediated cell-cell adhesion in these processes.