Anisotropy links cell shapes to tissue flow during convergent extension

Xun Wang, Matthias Merkel, Leo B. Sutter, Gonca Erdemci-Tandogan, M. Lisa Manning, Karen E. Kasza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


Within developing embryos, tissues flow and reorganize dramatically on timescales as short as minutes. This includes epithelial tissues, which often narrow and elongate in convergent extension movements due to anisotropies in external forces or in internal cellgenerated forces. However, the mechanisms that allow or prevent tissue reorganization, especially in the presence of strongly anisotropic forces, remain unclear. We study this question in the converging and extending Drosophila germband epithelium, which displays planar-polarized myosin II and experiences anisotropic forces from neighboring tissues. We show that, in contrast to isotropic tissues, cell shape alone is not sufficient to predict the onset of rapid cell rearrangement. From theoretical considerations and vertex model simulations, we predict that in anisotropic tissues, two experimentally accessible metrics of cell patterns-the cell shape index and a cell alignment index-are required to determine whether an anisotropic tissue is in a solid-like or fluid-like state. We show that changes in cell shape and alignment over time in the Drosophila germband predict the onset of rapid cell rearrangement in both wild-type and snail twist mutant embryos, where our theoretical prediction is further improved when we also account for cell packing disorder. These findings suggest that convergent extension is associated with a transition to more fluid-like tissue behavior, which may help accommodate tissue-shape changes during rapid developmental events.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13541-13551
Number of pages11
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number24
StatePublished - Jun 16 2020


  • Drosophila
  • Epithelia
  • Morphogenesis
  • Vertex models

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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