Mechanical forces control cell fate during brain formation

Mechanical forces control cell fate during brain formation

News from DCEXS-UPF

A new study coordinated by the Research Group in Developmental Biology at UPF shows that during the embryonic development of the brain, the cells that are between adjacent segments detect the mechanical forces generated during morphogenesis to regulate the balance between progenitor stem cells and differentiated neurons.

In vertebrates, the central nervous system is formed from an embryonic structure divided into three vesicles of the brain and the spinal cord. The rearmost brain vesicle will give rise to important adult derivatives such as the cerebellum and is where the cranial nerves that innervate the face derive from. During embryonic development, the hindbrain is subdivided into seven segments, called rhombomeres where neuronal progenitors are generated that will give rise to both motor and sensory neurons.

During segmentation of the hindbrain, a specific population of cells is located at the interface between successive rhombomeres. These boundary cells act as a barrier so that neighbouring cell populations do not mix, send instructions to progenitor cells of the adjacent rhombomere, and act as a source of progenitors and neurons. Although mechanical signals have been seen to be increasingly involved in directing cellular behaviour, how this happened in vivo had not yet been demonstrated.

Now, the group led by Cristina Pujades at the Department of Experimental and Health Sciences (DCEXS) at UPF has investigated how these boundary cells are able to "sense" the mechanical stimuli and transduce them into specific biological behaviours during zebrafish hindbrain segmentation.


A Voltes, CF. Hevia, C Engel, C Dingare, S Calzolari, J Terriente, C Norden, V Lecaudey, C Pujades. Yap/Taz-TEAD activity links mechanical cues to progenitor cell behavior during zebrafish hindbrain segmentation. Development, July 2019. doi: 10.1242/dev.176735. 

More information:
DCEXS-UPF website