Pulsations and flows in tissues as two collective dynamics with simple cellular rules

iScience. 2022 Sep 3;25(10):105053. doi: 10.1016/j.isci.2022.105053. eCollection 2022 Oct 21.


Collective motions of epithelial cells are essential for morphogenesis. Tissues elongate, contract, flow, and oscillate, thus sculpting embryos. These tissue level dynamics are known, but the physical mechanisms at the cellular level are unclear. Here, we demonstrate that a single epithelial monolayer of MDCK cells can exhibit two types of local tissue kinematics, pulsations and long range coherent flows, characterized by using quantitative live imaging. We report that these motions can be controlled with internal and external cues such as specific inhibitors and substrate friction modulation. We demonstrate the associated mechanisms with a unified vertex model. When cell velocity alignment and random diffusion of cell polarization are comparable, a pulsatile flow emerges whereas tissue undergoes long-range flows when velocity alignment dominates which is consistent with cytoskeletal dynamics measurements. We propose that environmental friction, acto-myosin distributions, and cell polarization kinetics are important in regulating dynamics of tissue morphogenesis.

Keywords: Biophysics; Cell biology; Systems biology.