A three-dimensional vertex model for Drosophila salivary gland invagination

Clinton H. Durney & James J. Feng

Phys. Biol. 18, 046005 (2021)

Abstract - During epithelial morphogenesis, force generation at the cellular level not only causes cell deformation, but may also produce coordinated cell movement and rearrangement on the tissue level. In this paper, we use a novel three-dimensional vertex model to explore the roles of cellular forces during the formation of the salivary gland in the Drosophila embryo. Representing the placode as an epithelial sheet of initially columnar cells, we focus on the spatial and temporal patterning of contractile forces due to three actomyosin pools: the apicomedial actomyosin in the pit of the placode, junctional actomyosin arcs outside the pit, and a supracellular actomyosin cable along the circumference of the placode. In an in silico "wild type" model, these pools are activated at different times according to experimental data. To identify the role of each myosin pool, we have also simulated various in silico "mutants" in which only one or two of the myosin pools are activated. We find that the apicomedial myosin initiates a small dimple in the pit, but this is not essential for the overall invagination of the placode. The myosin arcs are the main driver of invagination and are responsible for the internalization of the apical surface. The circumferential actomyosin cable acts to constrict the opening of the developing tube, and is responsible for forming a properly shaped lumen. Cell intercalation tends to facilitate the invagination, but the geometric constraints of our model only allow a small number of intercalations, and their effect is minor. The placode invagination predicted by the model is in general agreement with experimental observations. It confirms some features of the current ``belt-and-braces" model for the process, and provides new insights on the separate roles of the various myosin pools and their spatio-temporal coordination.