Epithelial organ shape is generated by patterned actomyosin contractility and maintained by the extracellular matrix.
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1008105
Epithelial sheets define organ architecture during development. Here, we employed an iterative multiscale computational modeling and quantitative experimental approach to decouple direct and indirect effects of actomyosin-generated forces, nuclear positioning, extracellular matrix, and cell-cell adhesion in shaping Drosophila wing imaginal discs. Basally generated actomyosin forces generate epithelial bending of the wing disc pouch. Surprisingly, acute pharmacological inhibition of ROCK-driven actomyosin contractility does not impact the maintenance of tissue height or curved shape. Computational simulations show that ECM tautness provides only a minor contribution to modulating tissue shape. Instead, passive ECM pre-strain serves to maintain the shape independent from actomyosin contractility. These results provide general insight into how the subcellular forces are generated and maintained within individual cells to induce tissue curvature. Thus, the results suggest an important design principle of separable contributions from ECM prestrain and actomyosin tension during epithelial organogenesis and homeostasis.