Morphogen gradient orchestrates pattern-preserving tissue morphogenesis via motility-driven unjamming

Diana Pinheiro (Vienna Biocenter)

Nov 17. 2022, 10:15 — 11:00

Embryo development requires biochemical signalling to generate patterns of cell fates and active mechanical forces to drive tissue shape changes. However, how these processes are coordinated, and how tissue patterning is preserved despite the cellular flows occurring during morphogenesis, remains poorly understood. Gastrulation is a crucial embryonic stage that involves both patterning and internalization of the mesendoderm germ layer tissue. Here we show that, in zebrafish embryos, a gradient in Nodal signalling orchestrates pattern-preserving internalization movements by triggering a motility-driven unjamming transition. In addition to its role as a morphogen determining embryo patterning, graded Nodal signalling mechanically subdivides the mesendoderm into a small fraction of highly protrusive leader cells, able to autonomously internalize via local unjamming, and less protrusive followers, which need to be pulled inwards by the leaders. The Nodal gradient further enforces a code of preferential adhesion coupling leaders to their immediate followers, resulting in a collective and ordered mode of internalization that preserves mesendoderm patterning. Integrating this dual mechanical role of Nodal signalling into minimal active particle simulations quantitatively predicts both physiological and experimentally perturbed internalization movements. This provides a quantitative framework for how a morphogen-encoded unjamming transition can bidirectionally couple tissue mechanics with patterning during complex three-dimensional morphogenesis.

Further Information
ESI Boltzmann Lecture Hall
Associated Event:
Mathematical Methods for the Study of Self-organization in the Biological Sciences (Thematic Programme)
Pierre Degond (IMT)
Marie Doumic (Sorbonne U, Paris)
Anna Kicheva (ISTA, Klosterneuburg)
Sara Merino-Aceituno (U of Vienna)
Christian Schmeiser (U of Vienna)