Spatial anisotropies and temporal fluctuations in extracellular matrix network texture during early embryogenesis

Rajprasad Loganathan, Brian R. Potetz, Brenda J. Rongish, Charles D. Little

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Early stages of vertebrate embryogenesis are characterized by a remarkable series of shape changes. The resulting morphological complexity is driven by molecular, cellular, and tissue-scale biophysical alterations. Operating at the cellular level, extracellular matrix (ECM) networks facilitate cell motility. At the tissue level, ECM networks provide material properties required to accommodate the large-scale deformations and forces that shape amniote embryos. In other words, the primordial biomaterial from which reptilian, avian, and mammalian embryos are molded is a dynamic composite comprised of cells and ECM. Despite its central importance during early morphogenesis we know little about the intrinsic micrometer-scale surface properties of primordial ECM networks. Here we computed, using avian embryos, five textural properties of fluorescently tagged ECM networks - (a) inertia, (b) correlation, (c) uniformity, (d) homogeneity, and (e) entropy. We analyzed fibronectin and fibrillin-2 as examples of fibrous ECM constituents. Our quantitative data demonstrated differences in the surface texture between the fibronectin and fibrillin-2 network in Day 1 (gastrulating) embryos, with the fibronectin network being relatively coarse compared to the fibrillin-2 network. Stage-specific regional anisotropy in fibronectin texture was also discovered. Relatively smooth fibronectin texture was exhibited in medial regions adjoining the primitive streak (PS) compared with the fibronectin network investing the lateral plate mesoderm (LPM), at embryonic stage 5. However, the texture differences had changed by embryonic stage 6, with the LPM fibronectin network exhibiting a relatively smooth texture compared with the medial PS-oriented network. Our data identify, and partially characterize, stage-specific regional anisotropy of fibronectin texture within tissues of a warm-blooded embryo. The data suggest that changes in ECM textural properties reflect orderly time-dependent rearrangements of a primordial biomaterial. We conclude that the ECM microenvironment changes markedly in time and space during the most important period of amniote morphogenesis-as determined by fluctuating textural properties.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere38266
JournalPloS one
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 31 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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