Dynamic changes in epithelial cell packing during tissue morphogenesis

Sandra B. Lemke, Celeste M. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Cell packing — the spatial arrangement of cells — determines the shapes of organs. Recently, investigations of organ development in a variety of model organisms have uncovered cellular mechanisms that are used by epithelial tissues to change cell packing, and thereby their shapes, to generate functional architectures. Here, we review these cellular mechanisms across a wide variety of developmental processes in vertebrates and invertebrates and identify a set of common motifs in the morphogenesis toolbox that, in combination, appear to allow any change in tissue shape. We focus on tissue elongation, folding and invagination, and branching. We also highlight how these morphogenetic processes are achieved by cell-shape changes, cell rearrangements, and oriented cell division. Finally, we describe approaches that have the potential to engineer three-dimensional tissues for both basic science and translational purposes. This review provides a framework for future analyses of how tissues are shaped by the dynamics of epithelial cell packing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)R1098-R1110
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number18
StatePublished - Sep 27 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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