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In silico mechanobiochemical modeling of morphogenesis in cell monolayers

By Bahador Marzban, Xiao Ma, Xiaoliang Qing, Hongyan Yuan

Posted 15 Sep 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/189175

Cell morphogenesis is a fundamental process involved in tissue formation. One of the challenges in the fabrication of living tissues in vitro is to recapitulate the complex morphologies of individual cells. Despite tremendous progress in understanding biophysical principles underlying tissue/organ morphogenesis at the organ level, little work has been done to understand morphogenesis at the cellular and microtissue level. In this work, we developed a 2D computational model for studying cell morphogenesis in monolayer tissues. The model is mainly composed of four modules: mechanics of cytoskeleton, cell motility, cell-substrate interaction, and cell-cell interaction. The model integrates the biochemical and mechanical activities within individual cells spatiotemporally. Finite element method (FEM) is used to model the irregular shapes of cells and to solve the resulting system of reaction-diffusion-stress equations. Automated mesh generation is used to handle the element distortion in FEM due to the large shape changes of the cells. The computer program can simulate tens to hundreds of cells interacting with each other and with the elastic substrate on desktop workstations efficiently. The simulations demonstrated that our computational model can be used to study cell polarization, single cell migration, durotaxis, and morphogenesis in cell monolayers.

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