During the embryonic development of multicellular organisms, millions of cells cooperatively build structured tissues, organs and whole organisms, a process called morphogenesis. How the behavior of so many cells is coordinated to produce complex structures is still incompletely understood. Most biomedical research focuses on the molecular signals that cells exchange with one another. It has now become clear that cells also communicate biomechanically during morphogenesis. In cell cultures, endothelial cells—the building blocks of blood vessels—can organize into structures resembling networks of capillaries. Experimental work has shown that the endothelial cells pull onto the protein gel that they live in, called the extracellular matrix. On sufficiently compliant matrices, the strains resulting from these cellular pulling forces slow down and reorient adjacent cells. Here we propose a new computational model to show that this simple form of mechanical cell-cell communication suffices for reproducing the formation of blood vessel-like structures in cell cultures. These findings advance our understanding of biomechanical signaling during morphogenesis, and introduce a new set of computational tools for modeling mechanical interactions between cells and the extracellular matrix.
Additional Metadata
THEME Life Sciences (theme 5)
Publisher PLoS
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003774
Journal PLoS Computational Biology
van Oers, R.F.M, Rens, E.G, LaValley, D.J, Reinhart-King, C, & Merks, R.M.H. (2014). Mechanical Cell-Matrix Feedback Explains Pairwise and Collective Endothelial Cell Behavior In Vitro. PLoS Computational Biology, 10(08). doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003774