Differential adhesion in morphogenesis: a modern view

Curr Opin Genet Dev. 2007 Aug;17(4):281-6. doi: 10.1016/j.gde.2007.05.002. Epub 2007 Jul 10.


The spreading of one embryonic tissue over another, the sorting out of their cells when intermixed and the formation of intertissue boundaries respected by the motile border cells all have counterparts in the behavior of immiscible liquids. The 'differential adhesion hypothesis' (DAH) explains these liquid-like tissue behaviors as consequences of the generation of tissue surface and interfacial tensions arising from the adhesion energies between motile cells. The experimental verification of the DAH, the recent computational models simulating adhesion-mediated morphogenesis, and the evidence concerning the role of differential adhesion in a number of morphodynamic events, including teleost epiboly, the specification of boundaries between rhombomeres in the developing vertebrate hindbrain, epithelial-mesenchymal transitions in embryos, and malignant invasion are reviewed here.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blastoderm / cytology
  • Blastoderm / metabolism
  • Cadherins / metabolism
  • Cell Adhesion / physiology
  • Cell Aggregation / physiology
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Movement / physiology*
  • Morphogenesis / physiology*
  • Zebrafish / embryology
  • Zebrafish / metabolism


  • Cadherins