Epithelial sheets are crucial components of all metazoan animals, enclosing organs and protecting the animal from its environment. Epithelial homeostasis poses unique challenges, as addition of new cells and loss of old cells must be achieved without disrupting the fluid-tight barrier and apicobasal polarity of the epithelium. Several studies have identified cell biological mechanisms underlying extrusion of cells from epithelia, but far less is known of the converse mechanism by which new cells are added. Here, we combine molecular, pharmacological, and laser-dissection experiments with theoretical modeling to characterize forces driving emergence of an apical surface as single nascent cells are added to a vertebrate epithelium in vivo. We find that this process involves the interplay between cell-autonomous actin-generated pushing forces in the emerging cell and mechanical properties of neighboring cells. Our findings define the forces driving this cell behavior, contributing to a more comprehensive understanding of epithelial homeostasis.
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