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The zebrafish presomitic mesoderm elongates through compaction-extension.

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In vertebrate embryos the presomitic mesoderm becomes progressively segmented into somites at the anterior end while extending along the anterior-posterior axis. A commonly adopted model to explain how this tissue elongates is that of posterior growth, driven in part by the addition of new cells from uncommitted progenitor populations in the tailbud. However, in zebrafish, much of somitogenesis is associated with an absence of overall volume increase, and posterior progenitors do not contribute new cells until the final stages of somitogenesis. Here, we perform a comprehensive 3D morphometric analysis of the paraxial mesoderm and reveal that extension is linked to a volumetric decrease and an increase in cell density. We also find that individual cells decrease in volume over successive somite stages. Live cell tracking confirms that much of this tissue deformation occurs within the presomitic mesoderm progenitor zone and is associated with non-directional rearrangement. Taken together, we propose a compaction-extension mechanism of tissue elongation that highlights the need to better understand the role tissue intrinsic and extrinsic forces in regulating morphogenesis.



Developmental morphometrics, Morphogenesis, Multi-tissue, Posterior body, Somitogenesis, Animals, Embryonic Development, Mesoderm, Morphogenesis, Somites, Zebrafish

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Cells Dev

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Elsevier BV
Wellcome Trust (109408/Z/15/Z)
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EP/R025398/1)
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (1804952)