Cell spreading provides one of the simplest configurations in which eukaryotic cells develop angular symmetry-breaking assemblies of mechanosensing and mechanotransducive organelles in preparation for cell differentiation and movement. By identifying the edge of the cell-ECM adhesion area as having an important role in mechanosensor complex aggregation, we consider the spatial patterns arising on this edge, within a 1D lattice model of the nearest-neighbour interaction between individual integrin-mediated mechanosensors. We obtain the Ginzburg-Landau free energy for this model and analyse the spectrum of spatial modes as the cell spreads and increases the contact area. We test the plausibility of our model by comparing its predictions for the azimuthal angular frequency of aggregation of mechanosensors into nascent focal adhesions (FAs) to observations of the paxillin distribution in spreading fibroblasts.
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