Stress-driven cell extrusion can maintain homeostatic cell density in response to overcrowding
Epithelial tissues can become overcrowded during proliferation and growth, in which case excessive cells need to be constantly removed. Here, we employed a vertex dynamics model to explore the microscopic mechanisms that govern homeostasis in an overcrowded monolayer of epithelial cells. It is demonstrated that the monolayer under mechanical compression can maintain a constant cell density and an optimal stress level through cell extrusion. Interestingly, cells are always extruded at sites of stress singularity in the monolayer, which may be spontaneously generated through random movements of cell groups near the extruding cells, and the fluctuation of protein molecules aggregating along the cell surface facilitates the restoration of the monolayer to its equilibrium state. Our results provide a foundation to interpret recent experiments as well as shed light on the mechanisms that underlie epithelial development and maintenance.