A simulation study of aggregation mediated by production of cohesive molecules†
Mechanical interactions between biological cells can be mediated by secreted products. Here, we investigate how such a scenario could affect the cells' collective behaviour. We show that if the concentration field of secreted products around a cell can be considered to be in steady state, this scenario can be mapped onto an effective attractive interaction that depends on the local cell density. Using a field-theory approach, this density-dependent attraction gives rise to a cubic term in the Landau–Ginzburg free energy density. In continuum field simulations this can lead to “nucleation-like” appearance of homogeneous clusters in the spinodal phase separation regime. Implementing the density-dependent cohesive attraction in Brownian dynamics simulations of a particle-based model gives rise to similar “spinodal nucleation” phase separation behaviour.