Mechanics of Morphogenesis: The Fly Eye

Sascha Hilgenfeldt, MechSE, UIUC

The complex, highly reproducible shapes of epithelial cells in the Drosophila eye are crucially dependent on the expression of adhesion molecules (cadherins). We show that not only the overall tissue organization, but the shape of each individual cell can be understood through quantitative modeling using minimization of an interfacial energy functional. The model contains only two free parameters, encoding for the adhesion strengths of E- and N-cadherin, and reproduces interfacial angles and lengths to within a few percent accuracy. Characteristic morphological changes in mutant ommatidia can be modeled within this approach, indicating an important role of changing levels of cadherin expression during morphogenesis.