Stress-dependent morphogenesis: continuum mechanics and truss systems

José J. Munoz, Vito Conte, Mark Miodownik

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12 Citations (Scopus)


A set of equilibrium equations is derived for the stress-controlled shape change of cells due to the remodelling and growth of their internal architecture. The approach involves the decomposition of the deformation gradient into an active and a passive component; the former is allowed to include a growth process, while the latter is assumed to be hyperelastic and mass-preserving. The two components are coupled with a control function that provides the required feedback mechanism. The balance equations for general continua are derived and, using a variational approach, we deduce the equilibrium equations and study the effects of the control function on these equations. The results are applied to a truss system whose function is to simulate the cytoskeletal network constituted by myosin microfilaments and microtubules, which are found experimentally to control shape change in cells. Special attention is paid to the conditions that a thermodynamically consistent formulation should satisfy. The model is used to simulate the multicellular shape changes observed during ventral furrow invagination of the Drosophila melanogaster embryo. The results confirm that ventral furrow invagination can be achieved through stress control alone, without the need for other regulatory or signalling mechanisms. The model also reveals that the yolk plays a distinct role in the process, which is different to its role during invagination with externally imposed strains. In stress control, the incompressibility constraint of the yolk leads, via feedback, to the generation of a pressure in the ventral zone of the epithelium that eventually eases its rise and internalisation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)451-467
Number of pages17
JournalBiomechanics and Modeling in Mechanobiology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Development
  • Embryo
  • Feedback
  • Morphogenesis
  • Trusses

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