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Mechanical stress combines with planar polarised patterning during metaphase to orient embryonic epithelial cell divisions.

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The planar orientation of cell division (OCD) is important for epithelial morphogenesis and homeostasis. Here, we ask how mechanics and antero-posterior (AP) patterning combine to influence the first divisions after gastrulation in the Drosophila embryonic epithelium. We analyse hundreds of cell divisions and show that stress anisotropy, notably from compressive forces, can reorient division directly in metaphase. Stress anisotropy influences the OCD by imposing metaphase cell elongation, despite mitotic rounding, and overrides interphase cell elongation. In strongly elongated cells, the mitotic spindle adapts its length to, and hence its orientation is constrained by, the cell long axis. Alongside mechanical cues, we find a tissue-wide bias of the mitotic spindle orientation towards AP-patterned planar polarised Myosin-II. This spindle bias is lost in an AP-patterning mutant. Thus, a patterning-induced mitotic spindle orientation bias overrides mechanical cues in mildly elongated cells, whereas in strongly elongated cells the spindle is constrained close to the high stress axis.


Peer reviewed: True

Publication status: Published

Funder: University of Cambridge; doi:


Drosophila, Axis extension, Cell division orientation, Mechanics, Morphogenesis, Myosin-II, Neighbour compression, Planar polarity, Steric hindrance, Stress anisotropy, Animals, Metaphase, Stress, Mechanical, Epithelial Cells, Spindle Apparatus, Drosophila melanogaster, Cell Division, Cell Polarity, Body Patterning, Myosin Type II, Embryo, Nonmammalian, Drosophila Proteins, Gastrulation

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The Company of Biologists
Wellcome Trust (099234/Z/12/Z)
Wellcome Trust (207553/Z/17/Z)
MRC (MR/W024519/1)
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EP/R025398/1)