During the developmental processes of embryos, cells undergo massive deformation and division that are regulated by mechanical cues. However, little is known about how embryonic cells change their mechanical properties during different cleavage stages. Here, using atomic force microscopy, we investigated the stiffness of cells in ascidian embryos from the fertilised egg to the stage before gastrulation. In both animal and vegetal hemispheres, we observed a Rho kinase (ROCK)-independent cell stiffening that the cell stiffness exhibited a remarkable increase at the timing of cell division where cortical actin filaments were organized. Furthermore, in the vegetal hemisphere, we observed another mechanical behaviour, i.e., a ROCK-associated cell stiffening, which was retained even after cell division or occurred without division and propagated sequentially toward adjacent cells, displaying a characteristic cell-to-cell mechanical variation. The results indicate that the mechanical properties of embryonic cells are regulated at the single cell level in different germ layers.
ASJC Scopus subject areas