Journal of Mathematical Biology

, Volume 64, Issue 3, pp 579–610 | Cite as

Continuum limits of pattern formation in hexagonal-cell monolayers

  • R. D. O’Dea
  • J. R. King


Intercellular signalling is key in determining cell fate. In closely packed tissues such as epithelia, juxtacrine signalling is thought to be a mechanism for the generation of fine-grained spatial patterns in cell differentiation commonly observed in early development. Theoretical studies of such signalling processes have shown that negative feedback between receptor activation and ligand production is a robust mechanism for fine-grained pattern generation and that cell shape is an important factor in the resulting pattern type. It has previously been assumed that such patterns can be analysed only with discrete models since significant variation occurs over a lengthscale concomitant with an individual cell; however, considering a generic juxtacrine signalling model in square cells, in O’Dea and King (Math Biosci 231(2):172–185 2011), a systematic method for the derivation of a continuum model capturing such phenomena due to variations in a model parameter associated with signalling feedback strength was presented. Here, we extend this work to derive continuum models of the more complex fine-grained patterning in hexagonal cells, constructing individual models for the generation of patterns from the homogeneous state and for the transition between patterning modes. In addition, by considering patterning behaviour under the influence of simultaneous variation of feedback parameters, we construct a more general continuum representation, capturing the emergence of the patterning bifurcation structure. Comparison with the steady-state and dynamic behaviour of the underlying discrete system is made; in particular, we consider pattern-generating travelling waves and the competition between various stable patterning modes, through which we highlight an important deficiency in the ability of continuum representations to accommodate certain dynamics associated with discrete systems.


Continuum limit Multiscale analysis Pattern formation Juxtacrine cell signalling 

Mathematics Subject Classification (2000)

34E13 92B05 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Mathematical Medicine and Biology, School of Mathematical SciencesUniversity of NottinghamNottinghamUK
  2. 2.School of Science and TechnologyNottingham Trent UniversityNottinghamUK

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