Getting Your Gut into Shape

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Science  11 Oct 2013:
Vol. 342, Issue 6155, pp. 203-204
DOI: 10.1126/science.1245288

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The specification and patterning of plant and animal tissues relies upon the spatial and temporal coordination of biochemical and physical processes at the molecular, cellular, and tissue scale (1, 2). Yet, despite access to genetic manipulation techniques and in vivo live-imaging platforms, progress in understanding how these processes interact in development has proved challenging. Reliant on the interplay of gene regulatory and mechanical cues, the emergence of spatial organization in the gut epithelium provides a paradigm for morphogenic processes in vertebrates. On page 212 of this issue, Shyer et al. (3) combine in vitro analyses of tissue explants with the development of a biophysical modeling scheme to show that the seemingly complex process of intestinal villi specification can be explained simply through the action of mechanical constraints.