Role of cell polarity dynamics and motility in pattern formation due to contact-dependent signalling

Supriya Bajpai, Ranganathan Prabhakar, Raghunath Chelakkot, Mandar M. Inamdar

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A key challenge in biology is to understand how spatio-temporal patterns and structures arise during the development of an organism. An initial aggregate of spatially uniform cells develops and forms the differentiated structures of a fully developed organism. On the one hand, contact-dependent cell-cell signalling is responsible for generating a large number of complex, self-organized, spatial patterns in the distribution of the signalling molecules. On the other hand, the motility of cells coupled with their polarity can independently lead to collective motion patterns that depend on mechanical parameters influencing tissue deformation, such as cellular elasticity, cell-cell adhesion and active forces generated by actin and myosin dynamics. Although modelling efforts have, thus far, treated cell motility and cell-cell signalling separately, experiments in recent years suggest that these processes could be tightly coupled. Hence, in this paper, we study how the dynamics of cell polarity and migration influence the spatiotemporal patterning of signalling molecules. Such signalling interactions can occur only between cells that are in physical contact, either directly at the junctions of adjacent cells or through cellular protrusional contacts. We present a vertex model which accounts for contact-dependent signalling between adjacent cells and between non-adjacent neighbours through long protrusional contacts that occur along the orientation of cell polarization. We observe a rich variety of spatiotemporal patterns of signalling molecules that is influenced by polarity dynamics of the cells, relative strengths of adjacent and non-adjacent signalling interactions, range of polarized interaction, signalling activation threshold, relative time scales of signalling and polarity orientation, and cell motility. Though our results are developed in the context of Delta-Notch signalling, they are sufficiently general and can be extended to other contact dependent morpho-mechanical dynamics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20200825
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of the Royal Society Interface
Issue number175
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021


  • active matter
  • collective behaviour
  • Delta-Notch signalling
  • morphogenesis
  • pattern formation
  • tissue physics

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