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Cell movements during early zebrafish morphogenesis

Thursday 27th September 2001 - 11:30 to 12:30
INI Seminar Room 1
Session Title: 
Vertical Integration in Biology: From Molecules to Organisms
The development of the vertebrate embryo depends upon substantial cell rearrangement to shape an amorphous ball of cells into an animal. We know in general terms from fate mapping studies where cells will go during this process but in many cases we know little about the actual forces and movements involved. We are looking at these problems using the zebrafish as a model organism. The zebrafish has many advantageous qualities for these studies, notably it grows rapidly with a transparent embryo in which all cells can be visualised. There also exist many mutant lines deficient in aspects of morphogenesis. We have developed methods of following and analysing the movements of many hundreds of cells in the early zebrafish embryo. The philosophy of our approach is that if we can trace the movements all the cells within a significant volume of the embryo we can begin to ask questions about the cellular mechanisms that cause the tissue to change shape. Our analyses allow us to generate metrics that can be used to describe changes in behaviours in time and in space and to compare events inmutant embryos to those in the wild type. In this way we have begun to isolate the component mechanisms that are involved in the earliest stages of gastrulation. I will present two stages in this process, the organisation of the blastoderm into germ layers, and the subsequent convergence and extension of the axial mesoderm. In both cases, we compare the patterns of cell reorganisation in wild type and mutant animals and from this try to infer the underlying mechanisms.
University of Cambridge Research Councils UK
    Clay Mathematics Institute London Mathematical Society NM Rothschild and Sons