Apical expansion of calvarial osteoblast progenitors from the cranial mesenchyme (CM) above the eye is integral to calvarial growth and enclosure of the brain. The cellular behaviors and signals underlying the morphogenetic process of calvarial expansion are unknown. Time-lapse light-sheet imaging of mouse embryos revealed calvarial progenitors intercalate in 3D in the CM above the eye, and exhibit protrusive and crawling activity more apically. CM cells express non-canonical Wnt/planar cell polarity (PCP) core components and calvarial osteoblasts are bidirectionally polarized. We found non-canonical ligand Wnt5a−/− mutants have less dynamic cell rearrangements and protrusive activity. Loss of CM-restricted Wntless (CM-Wls), a gene required for secretion of all Wnt ligands, led to diminished apical expansion of Osx+ calvarial osteoblasts in the frontal bone primordia in a non-cell autonomous manner without perturbing proliferation or survival. Calvarial osteoblast polarization, progressive cell elongation and enrichment for actin along the baso-apical axis were dependent on CM-Wnts. Thus, CM-Wnts regulate cellular behaviors during calvarial morphogenesis for efficient apical expansion of calvarial osteoblasts. These findings also offer potential insights into the etiologies of calvarial dysplasias.

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