Data from neural crest cultures indicate that cell surface coat material (CSM) is directly involved in cellular migration and events surrounding differentiation. To investigate whether the CSM also has a morphogenetic role, embryos of the amphibian Ambystoma maculatum were examined ultrastructurally throughout the stages of neurulation. Segments of the neural axis were fixed in glutaraldehyde-containing Alcian blue 8GX, which reportedly enhances preservation of CSM, and were postfixed in OsO4 containing 1 percent lanthanum nitrate, which stains the CSM. The medial groove formed by the appearance of the neural ridges contains a large amount of CSM and numerous vesicles coated with lanthanum-positive material. In contrast, the lateral ridge surfaces are covered by a small amount of uniformly distributed CSM and a paucity of vesicles. As the ridges begin to fold there is a progressive increase in the amount of CSM within the presumptive neural tube region. Further convergence of the neural folds is accompanied by an increase of CSM at their leading edges. As the folds approximate each other, lanthanum-positive material physically bridges the gap. However, as the apposing tissue actually abuts to form the neural tube, no CSM is observed in the remaining interspace. The specific distribution and sequential accumulation of cell CSM during the events of neurulation strongly suggest its direct participation in the morphogenetic process.

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