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Epithelial bending is a fundamental process that shapes organs during development. Previously known mechanisms involve cells locally changing shape from columnar to wedge-shaped. Here we report a different mechanism that occurs without cell wedging. In mammalian salivary glands and teeth, we show that initial invagination occurs through coordinated vertical cell movement: cells towards the periphery of the placode move vertically upwards while their more central neighbours move downwards. Movement is achieved by active cell-on-cell migration: outer cells migrate with apical, centripetally polarised leading edge protrusions but remain attached to the basal lamina, depressing more central neighbours to "telescope" the epithelium downwards into underlying mesenchyme. Inhibiting protrusion formation by Arp2/3 protein blocks invagination. FGF and Hedgehog morphogen signals are required, with FGF providing a directional cue. These findings show that epithelial bending can be achieved by a morphogenetic mechanism of coordinated cell rearrangement quite distinct from previously recognised invagination processes.


Jingjing Li, Andrew D Economou, Barbara Vacca, Jeremy B A Green. Epithelial invagination by a vertical telescoping cell movement in mammalian salivary glands and teeth. Nature communications. 2020 May 12;11(1):2366

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PMID: 32398639

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