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The structural and functional organization of biological tissues relies on the intricate interplay between chemical and mechanical signaling. Whereas the role of constant and transient mechanical perturbations is generally accepted, several studies recently highlighted the existence of long-range mechanical excitations (i.e., waves) at the supracellular level. Here, we confine epithelial cell monolayers to quasi-one-dimensional geometries, to force the establishment of tissue-level waves of well-defined wavelength and period. Numerical simulations based on a self-propelled Voronoi model reproduce the observed waves and exhibit a phase transition between a global and a multinodal wave, controlled by the confinement size. We confirm experimentally the existence of such a phase transition, and show that wavelength and period are independent of the confinement length. Together, these results demonstrate the intrinsic origin of tissue oscillations, which could provide cells with a mechanism to accurately measure distances at the supracellular level.
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