The Emergence of Geometric Order in Proliferating Metazoan Epithelia


Matthew Gibson, Ankit Patel, Radhika Nagpal, and Norbert Perrimon. 2006. “The Emergence of Geometric Order in Proliferating Metazoan Epithelia.” Nature, 442, 7106.


The predominantly hexagonal cell pattern of simple epithelia was noted in the earliest microscopic analyses of animal tissues1, a topology commonly thought to reflect cell sorting into optimally packed honeycomb arrays2. Here we use a discrete Markov model validated by time-lapse microscopy and clonal analysis to demonstrate that the distribution of polygonal cell types in epithelia is not a result of cell packing, but rather a direct mathematical consequence of cell proliferation. On the basis of in vivo analysis of mitotic cell junction dynamics in Drosophila imaginal discs, we mathematically predict the convergence of epithelial topology to a fixed equilibrium distribution of cellular polygons. This distribution is empirically confirmed in tissue samples from vertebrate, arthropod and cnidarian organisms, suggesting that a similar proliferation-dependent cell pattern underlies pattern formation and morphogenesis throughout the metazoa.


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