Studies on the mechanisms of neurulation in the chick: Morphometric analysis of the relationship between regional variations in cell shape and sites of motive force generation



Microfilaments, which are organized into bundles in the apical ends of neuroepithelial cells, are generally thought to play a major role in generating the driving forces for neural tube closure. Because of their proximity to the luminal surface, the contractile activity of these microfilament bundles results in conspicuous changes in the overall shape of neuroepithelial cells, most notably apical costriction and apical surface folding. In the present study, we have used morphometric methods and computer-assisted image analysis to reveal the distribution of microfilament-mediated forces in the developing midbrain during initial contact of apposing neural folds in chick embryos at Hamburger and Hamilton stage 8+ of development (Hamburger and Hamilton (1951) J. Morphol., 88:49–92). The degree of apical constriction, apical surface folding, and bending of the neuroepithelium was used as a barometer of local microfilament activity. Results indicate that cells forming the floor and midlateral walls of the developing midbrain consistently show a higher degree of apical constriction and surface folding than those at other locations. These same regions of the neuroepithelium also exhibit the greatest degree of bending. We conclude that the principal driving forces for closure of the neural tube, at the level of the midbrain, are concentrated in certain regions of the neuroepithelium (i.e., the floor and midlateral walls of the forming neural tube) rather than uniformly distributed.