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Nat Phys. 2017 Dec;13(12):1221-1226. doi: 10.1038/nphys4219. Epub 2017 Aug 7.

Active Tension Network model suggests an exotic mechanical state realized in epithelial tissues.

Author information

1
Department of Physics, University of California Santa Barbara.
2
Department of Applied Mathematics, Northwestern University.
3
Department of Biosciences, Rice University.
4
Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics.

Abstract

Mechanical interactions play a crucial role in epithelial morphogenesis, yet understanding the complex mechanisms through which stress and deformation affect cell behavior remains an open problem. Here we formulate and analyze the Active Tension Network (ATN) model, which assumes that the mechanical balance of cells within a tissue is dominated by cortical tension and introduces tension-dependent active remodeling of the cortex. We find that ATNs exhibit unusual mechanical properties. Specifically, an ATN behaves as a fluid at short times, but at long times supports external tension like a solid. Furthermore, an ATN has an extensively degenerate equilibrium mechanical state associated with a discrete conformal - "isogonal" - deformation of cells. The ATN model predicts a constraint on equilibrium cell geometries, which we demonstrate to approximately hold in certain epithelial tissues. We further show that isogonal modes are observed in the fruit y embryo, accounting for the striking variability of apical areas of ventral cells and helping understand the early phase of gastrulation. Living matter realizes new and exotic mechanical states, the study of which helps to understand biological phenomena.

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