Chalmers Conferences, 9th European Conference on Mathematical and Theoretical Biology

Collective cell movement promotes synchronization of coupled genetic oscillators
Koichiro Uriu

Last modified: 2014-03-28


Cells move collectively to form tissues and organs during animal embryonic development. This collective cell movement can be characterized by a positive correlation in the direction of motion of cells. Collective cell movement is controlled by intercellular signaling that allows cells to transfer information. A key question is how collective cell movement itself influences information flow in tissues. The segmentation clock that controls vertebrate somitogenesis may provide a system to address this question, because it features collective cell movements together with coupled genetic oscillators, segmentation clock, and synchronization can be used to visualize the outcome of information flow across a population of cells. Here we develop a physical model for collective cell movement and coupled genetic oscillators to study how collective cell movement affects synchronization. We show in numerical simulations that cell movement with a short-range velocity correlation is optimal for the synchronization of coupled oscillators. The short-range velocity correlation of cell movement maximizes cell mixing, effectively extending the interaction range of each cell and promoting information transfer across the population. Thus, our theoretical results suggest that collective cell movement may influence information flow across a cell population in living tissues.


synchronization; vertebrate somitogenesis; coupled oscillators; multi-cellular processes; self-propelled motion