Vertebrate embryogenesis entails an exquisitely coordinated combination of cell proliferation, fate specification and movement. After induction of the germ layers, the blastula is transformed by gastrulation movements into a multilayered embryo with head, trunk and tail rudiments. Gastrulation is heralded by formation of a blastopore, an opening in the blastula. The axial side of the blastopore is marked by the organizer, a signaling center that patterns the germ layers and regulates gastrulation movements. During internalization, endoderm and mesoderm cells move via the blastopore beneath the ectoderm. Epiboly movements expand and thin the nascent germ layers. Convergence movements narrow the germ layers from lateral to medial while extension movements elongate them from head to tail. Despite different morphology, parallels emerge with respect to the cellular and genetic mechanisms of gastrulation in different vertebrate groups. Patterns of gastrulation cell movements relative to the blastopore and the organizer are similar from fish to mammals, and conserved molecular pathways mediate gastrulation movements.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)R213-R228
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 29 2005


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