Pattern formation is of great importance for its contribution across different biological behaviours. During developmental processes for example, patterns of chemical gradients are established to determine cell fate and complex tissue patterns emerge to define structures such as limbs and vascular networks. Patterns are also seen in collectively migrating groups, for instance traveling waves of density emerging in moving animal flocks as well as collectively migrating cells and tissues. To what extent these biological patterns arise spontaneously through the local interaction of individual constituents or are dictated by higher level instructions is still an open question however there is evidence for the involvement of both types of process. Where patterns arise spontaneously there is a long standing interest in how far the interplay of mechanics, e.g. force generation and deformation, and chemistry, e.g. gene regulation and signaling, contributes to the behaviour. This is because many systems are able to both chemically regulate mechanical force production and chemically sense mechanical deformation, forming mechano-chemical feedback loops which can potentially become unstable towards spatio and/or temporal patterning. We work with experimental collaborators to investigate the possibility that this type of interaction drives pattern formation in biological systems at different scales. We focus first on tissue-level ERK-density waves observed during the wound healing response across different systems where many previous studies have proposed that patterns depend on polarized cell migration and arise from a mechanical flocking-like mechanism. By combining theory with mechanical and optogenetic perturbation experiments on in vitro monolayers we instead find evidence for mechanochemical pattern formation involving only scalar bilateral feedbacks between ERK signaling and cell contraction. We perform further modeling and experiment to study how this instability couples with polar cell migration in order to produce a robust and efficient wound healing response. In a following chapter we implement ERK-density coupling and cell migration in a 2D active vertex model to investigate the interaction of ERK-density patterning with different tissue rheologies and find that the spatio-temporal dynamics are able to both locally and globally fluidize a tissue across the solid-fluid glass transition. In a last chapter we move towards lower spatial scales in the context of subcellular patterning of the cell cytoskeleton where we investigate the transition between phases of spatially homogeneous temporal oscillations and chaotic spatio-temporal patterning in the dynamics of myosin and ROCK activities (a motor component of the actomyosin cytoskeleton and its activator). Experimental evidence supports an intrinsic chemical oscillator which we encode in a reaction model and couple to a contractile active gel description of the cell cortex. The model exhibits phases of chemical oscillations and contractile spatial patterning which reproduce many features of the dynamics seen in Drosophila oocyte epithelia in vivo. However, additional pharmacological perturbations to inhibit myosin contractility leaves the role of contractile instability unclear. We discuss alternative hypotheses and investigate the possibility of reaction-diffusion instability.
Boocock DR. Mechanochemical pattern formation across biological scales. 2023. doi:10.15479/at:ista:12964
Boocock, D. R. (2023). Mechanochemical pattern formation across biological scales. Institute of Science and Technology Austria. https://doi.org/10.15479/at:ista:12964
Boocock, Daniel R. “Mechanochemical Pattern Formation across Biological Scales.” Institute of Science and Technology Austria, 2023. https://doi.org/10.15479/at:ista:12964.
D. R. Boocock, “Mechanochemical pattern formation across biological scales,” Institute of Science and Technology Austria, 2023.
Boocock DR. 2023. Mechanochemical pattern formation across biological scales. Institute of Science and Technology Austria.
Boocock, Daniel R. Mechanochemical Pattern Formation across Biological Scales. Institute of Science and Technology Austria, 2023, doi:10.15479/at:ista:12964.
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