Morphogenesis and mechanics of epithelial tissues

From cell mechanics to embryo morphogenesis :

We are focused in understanding how cellular and sub-cellular properties are integrated at the embryo scale to give rise to emerging mechanisms necessary to drive coordinated tissue flows and tissue remodeling during development.

Recruiting Postdocs, Phd students and technicians: contact


The projects developed in the lab gather people from different backgrounds (biology, informatics, physics, and engineering) to generate an interdisciplinary and synergistic group in an international environment.

Tissue morphogenesis is a process by which the embryonic blastoderm is reshaped into the final form of a developed animal. Tissues are constituted by cells that are interconnected one another: local changes of cell shape drive consequent tissue shape change. Nevertheless mechanisms orchestrating morphogenesis appear not only to emanate at the sub-cellular and cellular scale but also to emerge at the scale of a tissue and of the entire embryo driving global cells flows and tissue folding, extension, convergence, thinning and thickening.

Cylindrical projection of cell tracks over the entire embryo during the first steps of fruit fly development.

The embryo anterior part is at the top, posterior at the bottom, ventral in the middle and dorsal at the left and right side. Wormer colors represent higher cell speed displacement taken at a given time point.

Studying the mechanics of cells and tissues in a developmental context is technically much more challenging than by using cells in culture. There are often numerous experimental limitations when studying cells in an embryonic system. The boundary conditions of such a system are then often unknown. Nevertheless, developmental biology is a field of great interest since it allows studying cells in a physiological relevant context. That is why scientists have been considering the embryo as an interesting “environment” in which to analyze and learn more about the biology and physics of cells. While much work has been done in dissecting cellular and subcellular mechanisms that are at play in a developmental context to eventually drive tissue morphogenesis, little is known of how cellular and sub-cellular mechanics is integrated at the embryo scale to give rise to emerging properties necessary to drive coordinated tissue flows and tissue remodeling responsable for morphogenesis and impacting on cell fate determination. The research we do aims to bridge scales from the subcellular to the embryo. This represents the ultimate understanding of how an embryo changes its shape during development.

From subcellular to embryo scale. Drosophila embryo. Left: close up view of cells during early gastrulation (membrane marker, scale bar 5 µm). Right: cylindrical projection and cross section view of the entire embryo during early gastrulation (membrane marker, scale bar 100 µm).

Tissue fold formation is a common morphological process taking place during morphogenesis. Such a process plays a key role in embryo development since it allows translocating cells in inner zones of the embryo where specific organs of the mature animal will then originate (process named gastrulation). A model system that is particularly suited for studying folding is for example the Drosophila embryo for which many genetic tools are available and several manipulation tools can be applied to probe cell mechanics. In the early Drosophila embryo it has been shown that a tissue can fold via different mechanisms. One example is dorsal folds that are initiated by the translocation of cell junctions towards the basal side of dorsal cells. Another example is the formation of a ventral furrow that originates from an acto-myosing constricting band generating cortical forces.

Drosophila embryo. Left: ventral furrow formation (Myo-II marker, scale bar 5 µm). Right: infra-red laser dissection of the ventral acto-myosin meshwork during furrow formation.

How can a tissue, during fold formation, change its curvature from convex to concave?

How are forces distributed in time at the surface and in the bulk of the embryo to drive morphogenesis?

Finally, how do tissue mechanics and morphogenesis impact on EMT, cell migration and cell fate determination?

The research we do in the lab wants to push further the understanding of embryo development and the technology necessary to tackle such understanding. We use and develop cutting edge imaging techniques, laser manipulation, magnetic tweezers, optogenetic-based synthetic morphology, and image analysis with systematic BIG data processing. The study is done comparatively on wild type and mutated embryos. in silico modelling is implemented to delineate a formal physical framework that can theoretically reproduce morphogenetic processes and predict features of the system that are then back tested experimentally.


Last publications

Probing tissue interaction with laser-based cauterization in the early developing Drosophila embryo. - 2017 - Methods in cell biology - 139 P153-165 - Rauzi,M

Embryo-scale tissue mechanics during Drosophila gastrulation movements. - 2015 - Nature communications - 6 P8677 - Rauzi M, Krzic U, Saunders TE, Krajnc M, Ziherl P, Hufnagel L, and Leptin,M

Local and tissue-scale forces drive oriented junction growth during tissue extension. - 2015 - Nature cell biology - 17 P1247-58 - Collinet C, Rauzi M, Lenne PF, and Lecuit,T

Noninvasive In Toto Imaging of the Thymus Reveals Heterogeneous Migratory Behavior of Developing T Cells. - 2015 - Journal of immunology (Baltimore, Md. : 1950) - 195 P2177-86 - Bajoghli B, Kuri P, Inoue D, Aghaallaei N, Hanelt M, Thumberger T, Rauzi M, Wittbrodt J, and Leptin,M

Probing cell mechanics with subcellular laser dissection of actomyosin networks in the early developing Drosophila embryo. - 2015 - Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.) - 1189 P209-18 - Rauzi M, and Lenne,PF

Physical models of mesoderm invagination in Drosophila embryo. - 2013 - Biophysical journal - 105 P3-10 - Rauzi M, Hocevar A, Ziherl P, and Leptin,M

A model of epithelial invagination driven by collective mechanics of identical cells. - 2012 - Biophysical journal - 103 P1069-77 - Hocevar A, Rauzi M, Leptin M, and Ziherl,P

Cortical forces in cell shape changes and tissue morphogenesis. - 2011 - Current topics in developmental biology - 95 P93-144 - Rauzi M, and Lenne,PF

Planar polarized actomyosin contractile flows control epithelial junction remodelling. - 2010 - Nature - 468 P1110-4 - Rauzi M, Lenne PF, and Lecuit,T

Repression of Wasp by JAK/STAT signalling inhibits medial actomyosin network assembly and apical cell constriction in intercalating epithelial cells. - 2009 - Development (Cambridge, England) - 136 P4199-212 - Bertet C, Rauzi M, and Lecuit,T

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Rauzi Matteo
Group Leader

2017 ANR T-ERC




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Members Team
   Molina Dolores
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    April 2017 - M. Rauzi Team
   1 CDD Engineer 12 mois

    April 2017 - M. Rauzi Team
   1 CDD Technician 12 mois

    January 2017 - M. Rauzi Team
   1 POST-DOC position 18 Months



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