Mechanical characterization of disordered and anisotropic cellular monolayers

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We consider a cellular monolayer, described using a vertex-based model, for which cells form a spatially disordered array of convex polygons that tile the plane. Equilibrium cell configurations are assumed to minimize a global energy defined in terms of cell areas and perimeters; energy is dissipated via dynamic area and length changes, as well as cell neighbor exchanges. The model captures our observations of an epithelium from a Xenopus embryo showing that uniaxial stretching induces spatial ordering, with cells under net tension (compression) tending to align with (against) the direction of stretch, but with the stress remaining heterogeneous at the single-cell level. We use the vertex model to derive the linearized relation between tissue-level stress, strain, and strain rate about a deformed base state, which can be used to characterize the tissue's anisotropic mechanical properties; expressions for viscoelastic tissue moduli are given as direct sums over cells. When the base state is isotropic, the model predicts that tissue properties can be tuned to a regime with high elastic shear resistance but low resistance to area changes, or vice versa.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Article number052409
JournalPhysical Review E
Issue number5
Early online date22 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - May 2018

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