Animal tissue and organ development requires the orchestration of cell movements, including those of interconnected cell groups, termed collective cell movements. Such movements are incredibly diverse. Recent work suggests that two core cellular properties, cell-cell adhesion and contractility, can largely determine geometry, packing, sorting, and rearrangement of epithelial cell layers. Two additional force-generating properties, the ability to generate cell protrusions and cell adhesion to the extracellular matrix, contribute to active motility. These mechanical properties can be regulated independently in cells, suggesting that they can be employed in a combinatorial manner. A small number of properties used in combination could, in principle, generate a diverse array of cell shapes and arrangements and thus orchestrate the varied morphogenetic events observed during metazoan organ development.
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