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Science 334 (6059): 1137-1141

Copyright © 2011 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Polarization of PAR Proteins by Advective Triggering of a Pattern-Forming System

Nathan W. Goehring,1 Philipp Khuc Trong,2,1,* Justin S. Bois,2,1,{dagger} Debanjan Chowdhury,2,{ddagger} Ernesto M. Nicola,2,§ Anthony A. Hyman,1 Stephan W. Grill2,1,||

Abstract: In the Caenorhabditis elegans zygote, a conserved network of partitioning-defective (PAR) polarity proteins segregates into an anterior and a posterior domain, facilitated by flows of the cortical actomyosin meshwork. The physical mechanisms by which stable asymmetric PAR distributions arise from transient cortical flows remain unclear. We present evidence that PAR polarity arises from coupling of advective transport by the flowing cell cortex to a multistable PAR reaction-diffusion system. By inducing transient PAR segregation, advection serves as a mechanical trigger for the formation of a PAR pattern within an otherwise stably unpolarized system. We suggest that passive advective transport in an active and flowing material may be a general mechanism for mechanochemical pattern formation in developmental systems.

1 Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics (MPI-CBG), 01307 Dresden, Germany.
2 Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems (MPI-PKS), 01187 Dresden, Germany.

* Present address: Department of Physics, and Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB3 OHE, UK.

{dagger} Present address: Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.

{ddagger} Present address: Department of Physics, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.

§ Present address: Institute for Cross-Disciplinary Physics and Complex Systems (IFISC), Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cienti?cas–Universitat de les Illes Balears, E-07122 Palma de Mallorca, Spain.

||To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: grill{at}

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