A major challenge in biology is to understand how mechanical interactions and cellular behavior affect the shapes of tissues and embryo morphology. The extension of the neural tube and paraxial mesoderm, which form the spinal cord and musculoskeletal system, respectively, results in the elongated shape of the vertebrate embryonic body. Despite our understanding of how each of these tissues elongates independently of the others, the morphogenetic consequences of their simultaneous growth and mechanical interactions are still unclear. Our study investigates how differential growth, tissue biophysical properties and mechanical interactions affect embryonic morphogenesis during axial extension using a 2D multi-tissue continuum-based mathematical model. Our model captures the dynamics observed in vivo by time-lapse imaging of bird embryos, and reveals the underestimated influence of differential tissue proliferation rates. We confirmed this prediction in quail embryos by showing that decreasing the rate of cell proliferation in the paraxial mesoderm affects long-term tissue dynamics, and shaping of both the paraxial mesoderm and the neighboring neural tube. Overall, our work provides a new theoretical platform upon which to consider the long-term consequences of tissue differential growth and mechanical interactions on morphogenesis.

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