Symmetry-Breaking Cilia-Driven Flow in Embryogenesis

David Smith, Thomas Montenegro-Johnson, Susana Lopes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


The systematic breaking of left–right body symmetry is a familiar feature of human physiology. In humans and many animals, this process originates with asymmetric fluid flow driven by rotating cilia, occurring in a short-lived embryonic organizing structure termed the node. The very low–Reynolds number fluid mechanics of this system is reviewed; important features include how cilia rotation combines with tilt to produce asymmetric flow, boundary effects, time dependence, and the interpretation of particle tracking experiments. The effect of perturbing cilia length and number is discussed and compared in mouse and zebrafish. Whereas understanding of this process has advanced significantly over the past two decades, there is still no consensus on how flow is converted to asymmetric gene expression, with most research focusing on resolving mechanical versus morphogen sensing. The underlying process may be more subtle, probably involving a combination of these effects, with fluid mechanics playing a central role.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-128
Number of pages24
JournalAnnual Review of Fluid Mechanics
Early online date15 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jan 2019


  • Kupffer's vesicle
  • body axis determination
  • cilia
  • nodal flow
  • ventral node

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics


Dive into the research topics of 'Symmetry-Breaking Cilia-Driven Flow in Embryogenesis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this