Modeling gastrulation in the chick embryo: formation of the primitive streak

Bakhtier Vasiev, Ariel Balter, Mark Chaplain, James A. Glazier, Cornelis J. Weijer

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58 Citations (Scopus)


The body plan of all higher organisms develops during gastrulation. Gastrulation results from the integration of cell proliferation, differentiation and migration of thousands of cells. In the chick embryo gastrulation starts with the formation of the primitive streak, the site of invagination of mesoderm and endoderm cells, from cells overlaying Koller's Sickle. Streak formation is associated with large-scale cell flows that carry the mesoderm cells overlying Koller's sickle into the central midline region of the embryo. We use multi-cell computer simulations to investigate possible mechanisms underlying the formation of the primitive streak in the chick embryo. Our simulations suggest that the formation of the primitive streak employs chemotactic movement of a subpopulation of streak cells, as well as differential adhesion between the mesoderm cells and the other cells in the epiblast. Both chemo-attraction and chemo-repulsion between various combinations of cell types can create a streak. However, only one combination successfully reproduces experimental observations of the manner in which two streaks in the same embryo interact. This finding supports a mechanism in which streak tip cells produce a diffusible morphogen which repels cells in the surrounding epiblast. On the other hand, chemotactic interaction alone does not reproduce the experimental observation that the large-scale vortical cell flows develop simultaneously with streak initiation. In our model the formation of large scale cell flows requires an additional mechanism that coordinates and aligns the motion of neighboring cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)-
JournalPLoS One
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 11 May 2010


  • Dictostelium discoideum
  • Expression patterns
  • Axial structures
  • Cell movement
  • Chemotaxis
  • Differentiation
  • Induction
  • Amniote
  • Gene


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