Vertex models of epithelial morphogenesis

Biophys J. 2014 Jun 3;106(11):2291-304. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2013.11.4498.


The dynamic behavior of epithelial cell sheets plays a central role during numerous developmental processes. Genetic and imaging studies of epithelial morphogenesis in a wide range of organisms have led to increasingly detailed mechanisms of cell sheet dynamics. Computational models offer a useful means by which to investigate and test these mechanisms, and have played a key role in the study of cell-cell interactions. A variety of modeling approaches can be used to simulate the balance of forces within an epithelial sheet. Vertex models are a class of such models that consider cells as individual objects, approximated by two-dimensional polygons representing cellular interfaces, in which each vertex moves in response to forces due to growth, interfacial tension, and pressure within each cell. Vertex models are used to study cellular processes within epithelia, including cell motility, adhesion, mitosis, and delamination. This review summarizes how vertex models have been used to provide insight into developmental processes and highlights current challenges in this area, including progressing these models from two to three dimensions and developing new tools for model validation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Shape
  • Epidermal Cells
  • Epidermis / growth & development*
  • Epithelial Cells / cytology*
  • Epithelial Cells / physiology
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological*
  • Morphogenesis*