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Development. 2010 Feb;137(3):499-506. doi: 10.1242/dev.041731.

Exploring the effects of mechanical feedback on epithelial topology.

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Institute of Molecular Life Sciences, University of Zurich, Winterthurerstrasse 190, 8057 Zurich, Switzerland.


Apical cell surfaces in metazoan epithelia, such as the wing disc of Drosophila, resemble polygons with different numbers of neighboring cells. The distribution of these polygon numbers has been shown to be conserved. Revealing the mechanisms that lead to this topology might yield insights into how the structural integrity of epithelial tissues is maintained. It has previously been proposed that cell division alone, or cell division in combination with cell rearrangements, is sufficient to explain the observed epithelial topology. Here, we extend this work by including an analysis of the clustering and the polygon distribution of mitotic cells. In addition, we study possible effects of cellular growth regulation by mechanical forces, as such regulation has been proposed to be involved in wing disc size regulation. We formulated several theoretical scenarios that differ with respect to whether cell rearrangements are allowed and whether cellular growth rates are dependent on mechanical stress. We then compared these scenarios with experimental data on the polygon distribution of the entire cell population, that of mitotic cells, as well as with data on mitotic clustering. Surprisingly, we observed considerably less clustering in our experiments than has been reported previously. Only scenarios that include mechanical-stress-dependent growth rates are in agreement with the experimental data. Interestingly, simulations of these scenarios showed a large decrease in rearrangements and elimination of cells. Thus, a possible growth regulation by mechanical force could have a function in releasing the mechanical stress that evolves when all cells have similar growth rates.

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