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A simple mechanochemical model for calcium signalling in embryonic epithelial cells

Kaouri, K. ORCID:, Maini, P. K., Skourides, P. A., Christodoulou, N. and Chapman, S. J. 2019. A simple mechanochemical model for calcium signalling in embryonic epithelial cells. Journal of Mathematical Biology 78 , pp. 2059-2092. 10.1007/s00285-019-01333-8

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Calcium (Ca2+) signalling is one of the most important mechanisms of information propagation in the body. In embryogenesis the interplay between Ca2+ signalling and mechanical forces is critical to the healthy development of an embryo but poorly understood. Several types of embryonic cells exhibit calcium-induced contractions and many experiments indicate that Ca2+ signals and contractions are coupled via a two-way mechanochemical coupling. We present a new analysis of experimental data that supports the existence of this coupling during Apical Constriction in Neural Tube Closure. We then propose a mechanochemical model, building on early models that couple Ca2+ dynamics to cell mechanics and replace the bistable Ca2+ release with modern, experimentally validated Ca2+ dynamics. We assume that the cell is a linear viscoelastic material and model the Ca2+-induced contraction stress with a Hill function saturating at high Ca2+ levels. We also express, for the first time, the 'stretch-activation' Ca2+ flux in the early mechanochemical models as a bottom-up contribution from stretch-sensitive Ca2+ channels on the cell membrane. We reduce the model to three ordinary differential equations and analyse its bifurcation structure semi-analytically as the IP3 concentration, and the 'strength' of stretch activation, λ vary. The Ca2+ system (λ=0, no mechanics) exhibits relaxation oscillations for a certain range of IP3 values. As λ is increased the range of IP3 values decreases, the oscillation amplitude decreases and the frequency increases. Oscillations vanish for a sufficiently high value of λ. These results agree with experiments in embryonic cells that also link the loss of Ca2+ oscillations to embryo abnormalities. The work addresses a very important and understudied question on the coupling of chemical and mechanical signalling in embryogenesis.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Mathematics
Additional Information: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.
Publisher: Springer Verlag
ISSN: 0303-6812
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 6 February 2019
Date of Acceptance: 5 February 2019
Last Modified: 04 May 2023 13:10

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