A cell-level biomechanical model of Drosophila dorsal closure

Qiming Wang, James J. Feng & Len M. Pismen

Biophys. J. 103, 2265-2274 (2012)  

Abstract - We report a model describing the various stages of dorsal closure of Drosophila. Inspired by experimental observations, we represent the amnioserosa by 81 hexagonal cells that are coupled mechanically through the position of the nodes and the elastic forces on the edges. Besides, each cell has radial spokes representing actin filaments on which myosin motors can attach and exert contractile forces on the nodes, the attachment being controlled by a signaling molecule. Thus, the model couples dissipative cell and tissue motion with kinetic equations describing the myosin and signal dynamics. In the early phase, amnioserosa cells oscillate as a result of coupling among the chemical signaling, myosin attachment/detachment and mechanical deformation of neighboring cells. In the slow phase, we test two "ratcheting mechanisms" suggested by experiments: an internal ratchet by the apical and junctional myosin condensates, and an external one by the supracellular actin cables encircling the amnioserosa. Within the range of parameters tested, the model predictions suggest the former as the main contributor to cell and tissue area reduction in this stage. In the fast phase of dorsal closure, cell pulsation is arrested, and the cell and tissue areas contract consistently. This is realized in the model by gradually shrinking the resting length of the spokes. Overall, the model captures the key features of dorsal closure through the three distinct phases, and its predictions are in good agreement with observations.