Jump to main content
Jump to site search
Access to RSC content Close the message box

Continue to access RSC content when you are not at your institution. Follow our step-by-step guide.

Issue 21, 2013
Previous Article Next Article

Polymorphism and bistability in adherent cells

Author affiliations


The optimal shapes attained by contractile cells on adhesive substrates are determined by the interplay between intracellular forces and adhesion with the extracellular matrix. We model the cell as a contractile film bounded by an elastic cortex and connected to the substrate via elastic links. When the adhesion sites are continuously distributed, optimal cell shape is constrained by the adhesion geometry, with a spread area sensitively dependent on the substrate stiffness and contractile tension. For discrete adhesion sites, the equilibrium cell shape is convex at weak contractility, while developing local concavities at intermediate values of contractility. Increasing contractility beyond a critical value, controlled by mechanical and geometrical properties of adhesion, the cell boundary undergoes a discontinuous transition to a star-shaped configuration with cusps and protrusions, accompanied by a region of bistability and hysteresis.

Graphical abstract: Polymorphism and bistability in adherent cells

Back to tab navigation

Article information

05 Dec 2012
10 Apr 2013
First published
26 Apr 2013

Soft Matter, 2013,9, 5251-5260
Article type

Polymorphism and bistability in adherent cells

S. Banerjee and L. Giomi, Soft Matter, 2013, 9, 5251
DOI: 10.1039/C3SM27791G

Social activity

Search articles by author