Biomechanics and Modeling in Mechanobiology

, Volume 16, Issue 5, pp 1555–1568 | Cite as

Modelling apical columnar epithelium mechanics from circumferential contractile fibres

  • A. R. B. Boyd
  • S. Moore
  • J. E. Sader
  • P. V. S. Lee
Original Paper


Simple columnar epithelia are formed by individual epithelial cells connecting together to form single cell high sheets. They are a main component of many important body tissues and are heavily involved in both normal and cancerous cell activities. Prior experimental observations have identified a series of contractile fibres around the circumference of a cross section located in the upper (apical) region of each cell. While other potential mechanisms have been identified in both the experimental and theoretical literature, these circumferential fibres are considered to be the most likely mechanism controlling movement of this cross section. Here, we investigated the impact of circumferential contractile fibres on movement of the cross section by creating an alternate model where movement is driven from circumferential contractile fibres, without any other potential mechanisms. In this model, we utilised a circumferential contractile fibre representation based on investigations into the movement of contractile fibres as an individual system, treated circumferential fibres as a series of units, and matched our model simulation to experimental geometries. By testing against laser ablation datasets sourced from existing literature, we found that circumferential fibres can reproduce the majority of cross-sectional movements. We also investigated model predictions related to various aspects of cross-sectional movement, providing insights into epithelium mechanics and demonstrating the usefulness of our modelling approach.


Columnar epithelium Laser ablation Mechanistic modelling Vertex model Computational biomechanics Drosophila 



This research was supported by the Victorian Life Sciences Computation Initiative (VLSCI) Grant UOM0012 on its Peak Computing Facility at the University of Melbourne, an initiative of the Victorian Government. We would also like to acknowledge the statistical support of the Statistical Consulting Centre at the University of Melbourne, specifically Rachel Sore.

Compliance with ethical standards


This study was funded by the Australian Government Department of Education and Training Australian Postgraduate Award.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Mechanical EngineeringUniversity of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.IBM Research AustraliaCarltonAustralia
  3. 3.School of Mathematics and StatisticsUniversity of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia

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