Coupling and uncoupling of midline morphogenesis and cell flow in amniote gastrulation

  1. Cardiovascular Research Institute, University of California, San Francisco. San Francisco, California 94158, USA
  2. Department of Physics, University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida 33146, USA
  3. Department of Bioengineering, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305, USA


  • Reviewing Editor
    Richard Harvey
    Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, Australia
  • Senior Editor
    Sofia Araújo
    University of Barcelona, Spain

Reviewer #1 (Public Review):

In chicken embryos, the counter-rotating migration of epiblast cells on both sides of the forming primitive streak (PS), a process referred to as polonaise movements, has attracted longstanding interest as a paradigm of morphogenetic cell movements. However, the association between these cell movements and PS development is still controversial. This study investigated PS development and polonaise movements separately at their initial stage, showing that both could be uncoupled (at least at the initial phase), being activated via Vg1 signaling.

Strengths of this study

Polonaise movements, i.e., the circular cell migration of epiblast cells on both sides of the forming PS in avian embryos, have been the subject of research through live imaging and promoted the development of new tools to analyze quantitatively such movements. However, conclusions from previous studies remain controversial, at least partly due to the nature of perturbations to PS development and polonaise movements.

This study performed the challenging technique of electroporation to successfully mark and manipulate Wnt/PCP pathways in unincubated chicken embryo cells at the initiation phase of these two processes. In addition, the authors separately altered PS development and polonaise movements: PS development was perturbed by inhibiting either the Wnt/PCP pathway or DNA synthesis using aphidicolin, while polonaise movements were modified by the development of a second PS after engrafting Vg1-expressing COS cells located at the opposite end of the blastoderm. The study concluded that Vg1 elicits both PS development and polonaise movements, which occur in a parallel and are not inter-dependent.

To support these conclusions, particle image velocimetry (PIV) of cell trajectories captured by live imaging was performed. These tools delineated visually appealing cell movements and gave rise to vorticity profiles, adding more value to this study.

Weaknesses of this study

Engrafted Vg1-expressing COS cells located at the anterior end of the blastoderm elicited both the development of a second PS and marked bilateral polonaise movements while perturbing these movements along the original PS. How do polonaise movements along the second PS dominate over those along the normal PS? The authors suggested a model in which Vg1 acts in a graded or dose-dependent manner since engrafted COS cells over-expressed Vg1. This model can be tested by reducing the mass of engrafted COS cells. Although the authors propose performing this analysis in further investigations, it would be preferable to incorporate into this study for better consistency.

The authors claim that chicken embryo development is representative of "amniotes," but it does not hold for all groups. Avian and mammal species are exceptional among amniotes in the sense they develop a PS (e.g., Coolen et al. 2008). Moreover, in certain mammalian embryos like mouse embryos, cells laterally to the PS do not move much (Williams et al. 2012). The authors should avoid the generalization that chicken embryos unequivocally represent amniotes as opposed to the observed in non-amniote embryos. The observations in chicken embryos as they stand are significant enough.

Coolen M, et al. (2008). Molecular characterization of the gastrula in the turtle Emys orbicularis: an evolutionary perspective on gastrulation. PLoS One. 3(7):e2676. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0002676

Williams M, et al. (2012). Mouse primitive streak forms in situ by initiation of epithelial to mesenchymal transition without migration of a cell population. Dev Dyn. 241(2):270-283. doi: 10.1002/dvdy.23711

Reviewer #2 (Public Review):

The authors are interested in large-scale cell flow during gastrulation and in particular in the polonaise movement. This movement corresponds to a bilateral vortex-like counter-rotating cell flow and transport the mesendodermal cells allowing ingression of cells through the primitive streak and ultimately the formation of the mesoderm and endoderm. The authors specifically wanted to investigate the coupling of the polonaise movement and primitive streak to understand whether the polonaise movement is a consequence of the formation of the primitive streak or the other way around. They propose a model where the primitive streak elongation is not required for the cell flow but rather for its maintenance and that robust cell flow is not required for primitive streak extension.

Overall, the manuscript is well written with clear experimental designs. The authors have used live imaging and cell flow analysis in different conditions, where either the formation of the primitive streak or the cell flow was perturbed.
Their live imaging and PIV-based analyses convincingly support their conclusions that primitive streak deformation or mitotic arrest do not impact the initiation of the polonaise movement but rather the location or maintenance of these rotations. They additionally showed that disruption of the polonaise movement in the authentic primitive streak by elegant addition of an ectopic primitive streak does not impact the original primitive streak elongation.

- When using the delta-DEP-GFP construct, the authors showed that they can manipulate the shape of the primitive streak without affecting the identity and number of primitive streak cells. It is not clear however how this can affect the shape, volume or adhesion of the cells. Some mechanistic insights would strengthen the paper.
- Overall, frequencies of observation are missing for a better view of the phenomenon. For example, do Vg1/Cos cells always disrupt the flow at the authentic primitive streak? Can replicate vector fields be integrated to reflect quantification?
- Since myosin cables have been shown to be instrumental for the polonaise movement, it would be interesting to better investigate how the manipulations by the delta-DEP-GFP construct, or Vg1/Cos affect the myosin cables (as shown in preliminary form for the aphidicolin-treated embryos).

  1. Howard Hughes Medical Institute
  2. Wellcome Trust
  3. Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
  4. Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation