Patterns of mesenchymal condensation in a multiscale, discrete stochastic model

PLoS Comput Biol. 2007 Apr 27;3(4):e76. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.0030076. Epub 2007 Mar 8.


Cells of the embryonic vertebrate limb in high-density culture undergo chondrogenic pattern formation, which results in the production of regularly spaced "islands" of cartilage similar to the cartilage primordia of the developing limb skeleton. The first step in this process, in vitro and in vivo, is the generation of "cell condensations," in which the precartilage cells become more tightly packed at the sites at which cartilage will form. In this paper we describe a discrete, stochastic model for the behavior of limb bud precartilage mesenchymal cells in vitro. The model uses a biologically motivated reaction-diffusion process and cell-matrix adhesion (haptotaxis) as the bases of chondrogenic pattern formation, whereby the biochemically distinct condensing cells, as well as the size, number, and arrangement of the multicellular condensations, are generated in a self-organizing fashion. Improving on an earlier lattice-gas representation of the same process, it is multiscale (i.e., cell and molecular dynamics occur on distinct scales), and the cells are represented as spatially extended objects that can change their shape. The authors calibrate the model using experimental data and study sensitivity to changes in key parameters. The simulations have disclosed two distinct dynamic regimes for pattern self-organization involving transient or stationary inductive patterns of morphogens. The authors discuss these modes of pattern formation in relation to available experimental evidence for the in vitro system, as well as their implications for understanding limb skeletal patterning during embryonic development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Patterning / physiology*
  • Cartilage / cytology
  • Cartilage / growth & development*
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Chondrocytes / cytology*
  • Chondrocytes / physiology
  • Chondrogenesis / physiology*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Extracellular Matrix / physiology
  • Humans
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / physiology*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Models, Statistical
  • Morphogenesis / physiology
  • Stochastic Processes