Colloquium: Contractile forces driving embryonic development



Vrije Universiteit, W&N-gebouw, F-123

Contractile forces driving embryonic development

Matthias Kaschube

Faculty of Sciences



Morphogenesis is the process in which individual cell shape changes and movements collectively sculpt living tissue and give rise to the shape of an organism. While molecular biology has identified many genes and molecular pathways controlling morphogenesis, its dynamics and underlying principles remain elusive. Recent developments in live fluorescent imaging provide an unprecedented visualization of morphogenetic movements in several experimental model systems. In this talk I use modern image analysis methods to derive quantitative measurements of the dynamics of morphogenesis from 2-photon live imaging data, focusing on the example of tissue folding and invagination in /Drosophila/. This analysis reveals that some of the key shape changes observed in individual cells largely result from basic principles of pressure transmission and volume conservation, as opposed to being regulated by active cellular processes. A model that is based on these measurements and takes cell contractility and elasticity into account appears to capture essential aspects of the mechanisms underlying tissue invagination. These results shed new light on the forces and cellular dynamics driving tissue morphogenesis and are a step towards a quantitative understanding of how an organism’s shape arises in development.