Anterior expansion and posterior addition to the notochord mechanically coordinate zebrafish embryo axis elongation


How force generated by the morphogenesis of one tissue impacts the morphogenesis of other tissues to achieve an elongated embryo axis is not well understood. The notochord runs along the length of the somitic compartment and is flanked on either side by somites. Vacuolating notochord cells undergo a constrained expansion, increasing notochord internal pressure and driving its elongation and stiffening. Therefore, the notochord is appropriately positioned to play a role in mechanically elongating the somitic compartment. We used multi-photon cell ablation to remove specific regions of the zebrafish notochord and quantify the impact on axis elongation. We show that anterior expansion generates a force that displaces notochord cells posteriorly relative to adjacent axial tissues, contributing to the elongation of segmented tissue during post-tailbud stages. Unexpanded cells derived from progenitors at the posterior end of the notochord provide resistance to anterior notochord cell expansion, allowing for stress generation along the anterior-posterior axis. Therefore, notochord cell expansion beginning in the anterior, and addition of cells to the posterior notochord, act as temporally coordinated morphogenetic events that shape the zebrafish embryo anterior-posterior axis.