Curvature in Biological Systems: Its Quantification, Emergence, and Implications across the Scales

Barbara Schamberger, Ricardo Ziege, Karine Anselme, Martine Ben Amar, Michał Bykowski, André P. G. Castro, Amaia Cipitria, Rhoslyn A. Coles, Rumiana Dimova, Michaela Eder, Sebastian Ehrig, Luis M. Escudero, Myfanwy E. Evans, Paulo R. Fernandes, Peter Fratzl, Liesbet Geris, Notburga Gierlinger, Edouard Hannezo, Aleš Iglič, Jacob J. K. Kirkensgaard, Philip Kollmannsberger, Łucja Kowalewska, Nicholas A. Kurniawan, Ioannis Papantoniou, Laurent Pieuchot, Tiago H. V. Pires, Lars D. Renner, Andrew O. Sageman-Furnas, Gerd E. Schröder-Turk, Anupam Sengupta, Vikas R. Sharma, Antonio Tagua, Caterina Tomba, Xavier Trepat, Sarah L. Waters, Edwina F. Yeo, Andreas Roschger, Cécile M. Bidan, John W. C. Dunlop

Published: 2023


Surface curvature both emerges from, and influences the behavior of, living objects at length scales ranging from cell membranes to single cells to tissues and organs. The relevance of surface curvature in biology is supported by numerous experimental and theoretical investigations in recent years. In this review, first, a brief introduction to the key ideas of surface curvature in the context of biological systems is given and the challenges that arise when measuring surface curvature are discussed. Giving an overview of the emergence of curvature in biological systems, its significance at different length scales becomes apparent. On the other hand, summarizing current findings also shows that both single cells and entire cell sheets, tissues or organisms respond to curvature by modulating their shape and their migration behavior. Finally, the interplay between the distribution of morphogens or micro-organisms and the emergence of curvature across length scales is addressed with examples demonstrating these key mechanistic principles of morphogenesis. Overall, this review highlights that curved interfaces are not merely a passive by-product of the chemical, biological, and mechanical processes but that curvature acts also as a signal that co-determines these processes.

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