PhD: The mechanics of embryonic epithelia

Starting: 2016

During the development of living organisms, large-scale morphogenetic movements of epithelial tissues occur, as observed during the contraction of Drosophila amnioserosa tissue or the convergence and extension of its germband tissue. It is now established that the main driving forces of such movements at the tissue scale originate from the molecular dynamics of the actin-myosin complex, where cross-linked polymer networks of actin are dragged by the action of the myosin motor-molecule.

Such behaviour of the actomyosin cytoskeleton was recently revealed to be mechano-responsive, i.e. influenced by external mechanical factors such as the epithelial tissue tension. In return, the response of the actomyosin network influences the mechanical properties of the cells and the tissue. 

Automated 3D cell tracking in the Drosophila germband. A, Segmented 3D cell shapes. B,

Wire-frame detail of 3D cell-cell interfaces of cells in A.

This project aims at developing the first explanatory model connecting the mechanistic understanding of sub-cellular actomyosin behaviour to the emergent mechanical properties of cells and tissues, and the way these evolve and self-regulate during morphogenetic movements.


The project is based on a two scale approach, combining state-of-the-art analyses of embryonic epithelial images with unique insights into the intracellular actomyosin molecular network.


This project involves a collaboration between the laboratory LIPhy and the Department of Physiology, Development and Neurosciences of the University of Cambridge.


PI: Guy Blanchard (visitor) Co-PI: Jocelyn Etienne ; PhD Student: Nilankur Dutta



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