Emergent patterns of growth controlled by multicellular form and mechanics

Celeste M. Nelson, Ronald P. Jean, John L. Tan, Wendy F. Liu, Nathan J. Sniadecki, Alexander A. Spector, Christopher S. Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

703 Scopus citations


Spatial patterns of cellular growth generate mechanical stresses that help to push, fold, expand, and deform tissues into their specific forms. Genetic factors are thought to specify patterns of growth and other behaviors to drive morphogenesis. Here, we show that tissue form itself can feed back to regulate patterns of proliferation. Using microfabrication to control the organization of sheets of cells, we demonstrated the emergence of stable patterns of proliferative foci. Regions of concentrated growth corresponded to regions of high tractional stress generated within the sheet, as predicted by a finite-element model of multicellular mechanics and measured directly by using a micromechanical force sensor array. Inhibiting actomyosin-based tension or cadherin-mediated connections between cells disrupted the spatial pattern of proliferation. These findings demonstrate the existence of patterns of mechanical forces that originate from the contraction of cells, emerge from their multicellular organization, and result in patterns of growth. Thus, tissue form is not only a consequence but also an active regulator of tissue growth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11594-11599
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number33
StatePublished - Aug 16 2005
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


  • Cytoskeleton
  • Mechanotransduction
  • Micropatterning
  • Morphogenesis
  • Pattern formation


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