Forcing your way through development: how forces are generated, integrated and controlled during development

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Forces are important for tissues to grow, change shape and maintain integrity during complex but flawless developmental processes. My research has focused on understanding how forces influence cell behaviour during development, and recently I have been examining how forces influence growth control. This work has revealed that extracellular matrix (ECM) degradation is important for initiating growth in Drosophila histoblasts, a progenitor population that give rise to the adult abdomen. Furthermore, counter to the popular model of tissue tension promoting proliferation, ECM degradation leads to an increase in cell-cell junction tension whilst histoblasts undergo cell-cycle arrest. These results have led me to develop a micropatterned cell culture system to further probe the relationship between substrate dynamics and cell tension, and examine how forces travel through cells. This has revealed that in tissue culture, substrate dynamics also influence cell tension, with strong substrate attachment reducing cell-cell junction tension. This work suggests that ECM dynamics can control the flow of mechanical information across a tissue, but the consequences of this on mechanosensitive intracellular dynamics across a tissue needs further investigation.