Active morphogenesis of patterned epithelial shells

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Shape transformations of epithelial tissues in three dimensions, which are crucial for embryonic development or in vitro organoid growth, can result from active forces generated within the cytoskeleton of the epithelial cells. How the interplay of local differential tensions with tissue geometry and with external forces results in tissue-scale morphogenesis remains an open question. Here, we describe epithelial sheets as active viscoelastic surfaces and study their deformation under patterned internal tensions and bending moments. In addition to isotropic effects, we take into account nematic alignment in the plane of the tissue, which gives rise to shape-dependent, anisotropic active tensions and bending moments. We present phase diagrams of the mechanical equilibrium shapes of pre-patterned closed shells and explore their dynamical deformations. Our results show that a combination of nematic alignment and gradients in internal tensions and bending moments is sufficient to reproduce basic building blocks of epithelial morphogenesis, including fold formation, budding, neck formation, flattening, and tubulation.

Journal details

Journal eLife
Volume 12
Pages e75878
Available online
Publication date

Crick labs/facilities