Self-organized shape dynamics of active surfaces

Alexander Mietke, Frank Jülicher, Ivo F Sbalzarini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

89 Citations (Scopus)


Mechanochemical processes in thin biological structures, such as the cellular cortex or epithelial sheets, play a key role during the morphogenesis of cells and tissues. In particular, they are responsible for the dynamical organization of active stresses that lead to flows and deformations of the material. Consequently, advective transport redistributes force-generating molecules and thereby contributes to a complex mechanochemical feedback loop. It has been shown in fixed geometries that this mechanism enables patterning, but the interplay of these processes with shape changes of the material remains to be explored. In this work, we study the fully self-organized shape dynamics using the theory of active fluids on deforming surfaces and develop a numerical approach to solve the corresponding force and torque balance equations. We describe the spontaneous generation of nontrivial surface shapes, shape oscillations, and directed surface flows that resemble peristaltic waves from self-organized, mechanochemical processes on the deforming surface. Our approach provides opportunities to explore the dynamics of self-organized active surfaces and can help to understand the role of shape as an integral element of the mechanochemical organization of morphogenetic processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-34
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2019

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2019 the Author(s). Published by PNAS.


  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena/physiology
  • Mathematics
  • Models, Biological
  • Morphogenesis/physiology
  • Surface Properties
  • Torque


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