Supplementary Material from Smooth muscle contractility causes the gut to grow anisotropically

The intestine is the most anisotropically-shaped organ, but, when grown in culture, embryonic intestinal stem cells form star- or sphere-shaped organoids. Here, we present evidence that spontaneous tonic and phasic contractions of the circular smooth muscle of the embryonic gut cause short-time scale elongation of the organ by a purely mechanical, self-squeezing effect. We present an innovative culture set-up to achieve embryonic gut growth in culture and demonstrate by three different methods (embryological, pharmacological and microsurgical) that gut elongational growth is compromised when smooth muscle contractions are inhibited. We conclude that the cumulated short-term mechanical deformations induced by circular smooth muscle lead to long-term anisotropic growth of the gut, thus demonstrating a self-consistent way by which the function of this organ (peristalsis) directs its shape (morphogenesis). Our model correctly predicts that longitudinal smooth muscle differentiation later in embryogenesis slows down elongation, and that several mice models with defective gut smooth muscle contractility also exhibit gut growth defects. We lay out a comprehensive scheme of forces acting on the gut during embryogenesis and of their role in the morphogenesis of this organ. This knowledge will help design efficient in vitro organ growth protocols and handle gut growth pathologies such as Short Bowel Syndrome.