Asymmetry at cell-cell interfaces direct cell sorting, boundary formation, and tissue morphogenesis

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During development, cells of seemingly homogenous character sort themselves out into distinct compartments in order to generate cell types with specialized features that support tissue morphogenesis and function. This process is often driven by receptors at the cell membrane that probe the extracellular microenvironment for specific ligands and alter downstream signaling pathways impacting transcription, cytoskeletal organization, and cell adhesion to regulate cell sorting and subsequent boundary formation. This review will focus on two of these receptor families, Eph and Notch, both of which are intrinsically non-adhesive and are activated by a unique set of ligands that are asymmetrically distributed from their receptor on neighboring cells. Understanding the requirement of asymmetric ligand-receptor signaling at the membrane under homeostatic conditions gives insight into how misregulation of these pathways contributes to boundary disruption in diseases like cancer.HighlightsCell segregation and boundary formation are required for tissue compartmentalization.Eph/ephrin and Notch signaling are two pathways that regulate boundary formation.Distinct expression patterns of Eph and Notch receptors initiate and maintain cell segregation.Breakdown of boundaries can lead to developmental diseases and cancer.

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