Quantitative methods to study epithelial morphogenesis and polarity


Morphogenesis of an epithelial tissue emerges from the behavior of its constituent cells, including changes in shape, rearrangements, and divisions. In many instances the directionality of these cellular events is controlled by the polarized distribution of specific molecular components. In recent years, our understanding of morphogenesis and polarity highly benefited from advances in genetics, microscopy, and image analysis. They now make it possible to measure cellular dynamics and polarity with unprecedented precision for entire tissues throughout their development. Here we review recent approaches to visualize and measure cell polarity and tissue morphogenesis. The chapter is organized like an experiment. We first discuss the choice of cell and polarity reporters and describe the use of mosaics to reveal hidden cell polarities or local morphogenetic events. Then, we outline application-specific advantages and disadvantages of different microscopy techniques and image projection algorithms. Next, we present methods to extract cell outlines to measure cell polarity and detect cellular events underlying morphogenesis. Finally, we bridge scales by presenting approaches to quantify the specific contribution of each cellular event to global tissue deformation. Taken together, we provide an in-depth description of available tools and theoretical concepts to quantitatively study cell polarity and tissue morphogenesis over multiple scales.