Relating Biophysical Properties Across Scales
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A distinguishing feature of a multicellular living system is that it operates at various scales, from the intracellular to organismal. Genes and molecules set up the conditions for the physical processes to act, in particular to shape the embryo. As development continues the changes brought about by the physical processes lead to changes in gene expression. It is this coordinated interplay between genetic and generic (i.e. physical and chemical) processes that constitutes the modern understanding of early morphogenesis. It is natural to assume that in this multi- scale process the smaller defines the larger. In case of biophysical properties, in particular, those at the subcellular level are expected to give rise to those at the tissue level and beyond. Indeed, the physical properties of tissues vary greatly from the liquid to solid. Very little is known at present on how tissue level properties are related to cell and subcellular properties. Modern measurement techniques provide quantitative results at both the intracellular and tissue level, but not on the connection between these. In the present work we outline a framework to address this connection. We specifically concentrate on the morphogenetic process of tissue fusion, by following the coalescence of two contiguous multicellular aggregates. The time evolution of this process can accurately be described by the theory of viscous liquids. We also study fusion by Monte Carlo simulations and a novel Cellular Particle Dynamics (CPD) model, which is similar to the earlier introduced Subcellular Element Model (SEM; (Newman, 2005)). Using the combination of experiments, theory and modeling we are able to relate the measured tissue level biophysical quantities to subcellular parameters. Our approach has validity beyond the particular morphogenetic process considered here and provides a general way to relate biophysical properties across scales.