Stress-shape misalignment in confluent cell layers

Nat Commun. 2024 Apr 29;15(1):3628. doi: 10.1038/s41467-024-47702-w.


In tissue formation and repair, the epithelium undergoes complex patterns of motion driven by the active forces produced by each cell. Although the principles governing how the forces evolve in time are not yet clear, it is often assumed that the contractile stresses within the cell layer align with the axis defined by the body of each cell. Here, we simultaneously measured the orientations of the cell shape and the cell-generated contractile stresses, observing correlated, dynamic domains in which the stresses were systematically misaligned with the cell body. We developed a continuum model that decouples the orientations of contractile stress and cell body. The model recovered the spatial and temporal dynamics of the regions of misalignment in the experiments. These findings reveal that the cell controls its contractile forces independently from its shape, suggesting that the physical rules relating cell forces and cell shape are more flexible than previously thought.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Cell Shape*
  • Dogs
  • Epithelial Cells
  • Madin Darby Canine Kidney Cells
  • Models, Biological
  • Stress, Mechanical*