Int. J. Dev. Biol. 50: 81 - 92 (2006)
doi: 10.1387/ijdb.052056lb
© UPV/EHU Press

Morphomechanics: goals, basic experiments and models

Lev V. Beloussov* and Vassily I. Grabovsky

Laboratory of Developmental Biophysics, Department of Embryology, Faculty of Biology, Moscow State University, Russia

ABSTRACT Morphomechanics is a branch of developmental biology, studying the generation, space-time patterns and morphogenetic role of mechanical stresses (MS) which reside in embryonic tissues. All the morphogenetically active embryonic tissues studied in this respect have been shown to bear substantial mechanical stresses of tension or pressure. MS are indispensable for organized cell movements, expression of a number of developmentally important genes and the very viability of cells. Even a temporary relaxation of MS leads to an increase in the morphological variability and asymmetry of embryonic rudiments. Moreover, MS may be among the decisive links of morphogenetic feedback required for driving forth embryonic development and providing its regular space-time patterns. We hypothesize that one such feedback is based upon the tendency of cells and tissues to hyperrestore (restore with an overshoot) their MS values after any deviations, either artificial or produced by neighboring morphogenetically active tissues. This idea is supported by a number of observations and experiments performed on the tissue and individual cell levels. We describe also the models demonstrating that a number of biologically realistic stationary shapes and propagating waves can be generated by varying the parameters of the hyperrestoration feedback loop. Morphomechanics is an important and rapidly developing branch of developmental and cell biology, being complementary to other approaches.


morphogenesis, mechanical stress, developmental feedback, morphogenetic model

*Corresponding author e-mail: ;