In the blastocoel roof (BCR) of the Xenopus laevis embryo, epibolic movements are driven by the radial intercalation of deep cell layers and the coordinate spreading of the overlying superficial cell layer. Thinning of the lateral margins of the BCR by radial intercalation requires fibronectin (FN), which is produced and assembled into fibrils by the inner deep cell layer of the BCR. A cellular automata (CA) computer model was developed to analyze the spatial and temporal movements of BCR cells during epiboly. Simulation parameters were defined based on published data and independent results detailing initial tissue geometry, cell numbers, cell intercalation rates, and migration rates. Hypotheses regarding differential cell adhesion and FN assembly were also considered in setting system parameters. A 2-dimensional model simulation was developed that predicts BCR thinning time of 4.8 h, which closely approximates the time required for the completion of gastrulation in vivo. Additionally, the model predicts a temporal increase in FN matrix assembly that parallels fibrillogenesis in the embryo. The model is capable of independent predictions of cell rearrangements during epiboly, and here was used to predict successfully the lateral dispersion of a patch of cells implanted in the BCR, and increased assembly of FN matrix following inhibition of radial intercalation by N-cadherin over-expression.
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