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Shape and size changes of adherent elastic epithelia


Epithelial tissues play a fundamental role in various morphogenetic events during development and early embryogenesis. Although epithelial monolayers are often modeled as two-dimensional (2D) elastic surfaces, they distinguish themselves from conventional thin elastic plates in three important ways- the presence of an apical-basal polarity, spatial variability of cellular thickness, and their nonequilibrium active nature. Here, we develop a minimal continuum model of a planar epithelial tissue as an active elastic material that incorporates all these features. We start from a full three-dimensional (3D) description of the tissue and derive an effective 2D model that captures, through the curvature of the apical surface, both the apical-basal asymmetry and the spatial geometry of the tissue. Crucially, variations of active stresses across the apical-basal axis lead to active torques that can drive curvature transitions. By identifying four distinct sources of activity, we find that bulk active stresses arising from actomyosin contractility and growth compete with boundary active tensions due to localized actomyosin cables and lamellipodial activity to generate the various states spanning the morphospace of a planar epithelium. Our treatment hence unifies 3D shape deformations through the coupled mechanics of apical curvature change and in-plane expansion/contraction of substrate-adhered tissues. Finally, we discuss the implications of our results for some biologically relevant processes such as tissue folding at the onset of lumen formation.

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Article information

10 Feb 2020
19 May 2020
First published
20 May 2020

Soft Matter, 2020, Accepted Manuscript
Article type

Shape and size changes of adherent elastic epithelia

B. Loewe, F. Serafin, S. Shankar, M. Bowick and M. C. Marchetti, Soft Matter, 2020, Accepted Manuscript , DOI: 10.1039/D0SM00239A

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