Biology Inspired Physics at Mesoscales

Team Publications

Year of publication 2017

Breau M, Bonnet I, Stoufflet J, Xie J, De Castro S, Schneider-Maunoury S (2017 Aug 21)

Extrinsic mechanical forces mediate retrograde axon extension in a developing neuronal circuit

Nature Communications : 8 : 282 : DOI : 10.1038/s41467-017-00283-3 Learn more

To form functional neural circuits, neurons migrate to their final destination and extend axons towards their targets. Whether and how these two processes are coordinated in vivo remains elusive. We use the zebrafish olfactory placode as a system to address the underlying mechanisms. Quantitative live imaging uncovers a choreography of directed cell movements that shapes the placode neuronal cluster: convergence of cells towards the centre of the placodal domain and lateral cell movements away from the brain. Axon formation is concomitant with lateral movements and occurs through an unexpected, retrograde mode of extension, where cell bodies move away from axon tips attached to the brain surface. Convergence movements are active, whereas cell body lateral displacements are of mainly passive nature, likely triggered by compression forces from converging neighbouring cells. These findings unravel a previously unknown mechanism of neuronal circuit formation, whereby extrinsic mechanical forces drive the retrograde extension of axons.

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Vincent Hakim, Pascal Silberzan (2017 Mar 11)

Collective cell migration : a physics perspective.

Reports on progress in physics. Physical Society (Great Britain) : 80 : 076601 : DOI : 10.1088/1361-6633/aa65ef Learn more

Cells have traditionally been viewed either as independently moving entities or as somewhat static parts of tissues. However, it is now clear that in many cases, multiple cells coordinate their motions and move as collective entities. Well-studied examples comprise development events, as well as physiological and pathological situations. Different ex vivo model systems have also been investigated. Several recent advances have taken place at the interface between biology and physics and have benefitted from the progress in imaging and microscopy, the use of microfabrication techniques, as well as the introduction of quantitative tools and models. We review these interesting developments in quantitative cell biology that also provide rich examples of collective out-of-equilibrium motion.

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Ayako Yamada, Renaud Renault, Aleksandra Chikina, Bastien Venzac, Iago Pereiro, Sylvie Coscoy, Marine Verhulsel, Maria Carla Parrini, Catherine Villard, Jean-Louis Viovy, Stéphanie Descroix (2016 Nov 1)

Transient microfluidic compartmentalization using actionable microfilaments for biochemical assays, cell culture and organs-on-chip.

Lab on a chip : DOI : 10.1039/C6LC01143H Learn more

We report here a simple yet robust transient compartmentalization system for microfluidic platforms. Cylindrical microfilaments made of commercially available fishing lines are embedded in a microfluidic chamber and employed as removable walls, dividing the chamber into several compartments. These partitions allow tight sealing for hours, and can be removed at any time by longitudinal sliding with minimal hydrodynamic perturbation. This allows the easy implementation of various functions, previously impossible or requiring more complex instrumentation. In this study, we demonstrate the applications of our strategy, firstly to trigger chemical diffusion, then to make surface co-coating or cell co-culture on a two-dimensional substrate, and finally to form multiple cell-laden hydrogel compartments for three-dimensional cell co-culture in a microfluidic device. This technology provides easy and low-cost solutions, without the use of pneumatic valves or external equipment, for constructing well-controlled microenvironments for biochemical and cellular assays.

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Duclos G., Erlenkämper C., Joanny J.-F., Silberzan P. (2016 Sep 12)

Topological defects in confined populations of spindle-shaped cells

Nature Physics : 13 : 58-62 : DOI : 10.1038/nphys3876 Learn more

Most spindle-shaped cells (including smooth muscles and sarcomas) organize in vivo into well-aligned ‘nematic’ domains, creating intrinsic topological defects that may be used to probe the behaviour of these active nematic systems. Active non-cellular nematics have been shown to be dominated by activity, yielding complex chaotic flows. However, the regime in which live spindle-shaped cells operate, and the importance of cell–substrate friction in particular, remains largely unexplored. Using in vitro experiments, we show that these active cellular nematics operate in a regime in which activity is effectively damped by friction, and that the interaction between defects is controlled by the system’s elastic nematic energy. Due to the activity of the cells, these defects behave as self-propelled particles and pairwise annihilate until all displacements freeze as cell crowding increases. When confined in mesoscopic circular domains, the system evolves towards two identical +1/2 disclinations facing each other. The most likely reduced positions of these defects are independent of the size of the disk,the cells’ activity or even the cell type, but are well described by equilibrium liquid crystal theory. These cell-based systems thus operate in a regime more stable than other active nematics, which may be necessary for their biological function.

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