The skull roof, or calvaria, is comprised of interlocking plates of bones that encase the brain. Separating these bones are fibrous sutures that permit growth. Currently, we do not understand the instructions for directional growth of the calvaria, a process which is error-prone and can lead to skeletal deficiencies or premature suture fusion (craniosynostosis, CS). Here, we identify graded expression of fibronectin (FN1) in the mouse embryonic cranial mesenchyme (CM) that precedes the apical expansion of calvaria. Conditional deletion of Fn1 or Wasl leads to diminished frontal bone expansion by altering cell shape and focal actin enrichment, respectively, suggesting defective migration of calvarial progenitors. Interestingly, Fn1 mutants have premature fusion of coronal sutures. Consistently, syndromic forms of CS in humans exhibit dysregulated FN1 expression, and we also find FN1 expression altered in a mouse CS model of Apert syndrome. These data support a model of FN1 as a directional substrate for calvarial osteoblast migration that may be a common mechanism underlying many cranial disorders of disparate genetic etiologies.

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