Mechanical regulation of early vertebrate embryogenesis
Embryonic cells grow in environments that provide a plethora of physical cues, including mechanical forces that shape the development of the entire embryo. Despite their prevalence, the role of these forces in embryonic development and their integration with chemical signals have been mostly neglected, and scrutiny in modern molecular embryology tilted, instead, towards the dissection of molecular pathways involved in cell fate determination and patterning. It is now possible to investigate how mechanical signals induce downstream genetic regulatory networks to regulate key developmental processes in the embryo. Here, we review the insights into mechanical control of early vertebrate development, including the role of forces in tissue patterning and embryonic axis formation. We also highlight recent in vitro approaches using individual embryonic stem cells and self-organizing multicellular models of human embryos, which have been instrumental in expanding our understanding of how mechanics tune cell fate and cellular rearrangements during human embryonic development. © 2021, Springer Nature Limited.