Ventral tail bending, which is transient but pronounced, is found in many chordate embryos and constitutes an interesting model of how tissue interactions control embryo shape. Here, we identify one key upstream regulator of ventral tail bending in embryos of the ascidian Ciona. We show that during the early tailbud stages, ventral epidermal cells exhibit a boat-shaped morphology (boat cell) with a narrow apical surface where phosphorylated myosin light chain (pMLC) accumulates. We further show that interfering with the function of the BMP ligand Admp led to pMLC localizing to the basal instead of the apical side of ventral epidermal cells and a reduced number of boat cells. Finally, we show that cutting ventral epidermal midline cells at their apex using an ultraviolet laser relaxed ventral tail bending. Based on these results, we propose a previously unreported function for Admp in localizing pMLC to the apical side of ventral epidermal cells, which causes the tail to bend ventrally by resisting antero-posterior notochord extension at the ventral side of the tail.
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