Regular Article - Living Systems
Thickness of epithelia on wavy substrates: measurements and continuous models
Université Paris Cité, CNRS, Matiére et Systémes Complexes, UMR 7057,, Paris, France
2 Laboratoire de Physique des Solides, CNRS, UMR 8502, Université Paris-Saclay, Orsay, France
Accepted: 9 May 2022
Published online: 4 June 2022
We measured the thickness of MDCK epithelia grown on substrates with a sinusoidal profile. We show that while at long wavelength the profile of the epithelium follows that of the substrate, at short wavelengths cells are thicker in valleys than on ridges. This is reminiscent of the so-called «healing length in the case of a thin liquid film wetting a rough solid substrate. We explore the ability of continuum mechanics models to account for these observations. Modeling the epithelium as a thin liquid film, with surface tension, does not fully account for the measurements. Neither does modeling the epithelium as a thin incompressible elastic film. On the contrary, the addition of an apical active stress gives satisfactory agreement with measurements, with one fitting parameter, the ratio between the active stress and the elastic modulus.
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