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Downregulation of Extraembryonic Tension Controls Body Axis Formation in Avian Embryos

By Daniele Kunz, Anfu Wang, Chon U Chan, Robyn H. Pritchard, Wenyu Wang, Filomena Gallo, Charles R Bradshaw, Elisa Terenzani, Karin H. Müller, Yan Yan Shery Huang, Fengzhu Xiong

Posted 25 Feb 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.02.24.432525

Embryonic tissues undergoing shape change draw mechanical input from extraembryonic substrates. In avian eggs, the early blastoderm disk is under the tension of the vitelline membrane (VM). Here we report that chicken VM characteristically downregulates tension and stiffness to facilitate stage-specific embryo morphogenesis. While early relaxation of the VM impairs blastoderm expansion, maintaining VM tension in later stages resists the convergence of the posterior body causing stalled elongation, open neural tube, and axis rupture. Biochemical and structural analysis shows that VM weakening follows the reduction of its outer-layer glycoprotein fibers, which is caused by an increasing albumen pH due to CO2 release from the egg. Our results identify a previously unrecognized mechanism of body axis defects through mis-regulation of extraembryonic tissue tension.

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