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Nat Commun. 2017 Jul 31;8(1):157. doi: 10.1038/s41467-017-00146-x.

Sorting at embryonic boundaries requires high heterotypic interfacial tension.

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Dept. of Biology, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada, H3A1B1.
CRBM, CNRS, Montpellier, 34293, France.
Dept. of Physics, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada, H3A2T8.
Dept. of Biology, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada, H3A1B1.
CRBM, CNRS, Montpellier, 34293, France.
Dept. of Biology, University of Montpellier, Montpellier, 34095, France.


The establishment of sharp boundaries is essential for segregation of embryonic tissues during development, but the underlying mechanism of cell sorting has remained unclear. Opposing hypotheses have been proposed, either based on global tissue adhesive or contractile properties or on local signalling through cell contact cues. Here we use ectoderm-mesoderm separation in Xenopus to directly evaluate the role of these various parameters. We find that ephrin-Eph-based repulsion is very effective at inducing and maintaining separation, whereas differences in adhesion or contractility have surprisingly little impact. Computer simulations support and generalise our experimental results, showing that a high heterotypic interfacial tension between tissues is key to their segregation. We propose a unifying model, in which conditions of sorting previously considered as driven by differential adhesion/tension should be viewed as suboptimal cases of heterotypic interfacial tension.The mechanisms that cause different cells to segregate into distinct tissues are unclear. Here the authors show in Xenopus that formation of a boundary between two tissues is driven by local tension along the interface rather than by global differences in adhesion or cortical contractility.

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