Mathematical Analysis of Spontaneous Emergence of Cell Polarity

Research output: Journal Publications and ReviewsRGC 21 - Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1835-1865
Journal / PublicationBulletin of Mathematical Biology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2014
Externally publishedYes


Cell polarization, in which intracellular substances are asymmetrically distributed, enables cells to carry out specialized functions. While cell polarity is often induced by intracellular or extracellular spatial cues, spontaneous polarization (the so-called symmetry breaking) may also occur in the absence of spatial cues. Many computational models have been used to investigate the mechanisms of symmetry breaking, and it was proved that spontaneous polarization occurs when the lateral diffusion of inactive signaling molecules is much faster than that of active signaling molecules. This conclusion leaves an important question of how, as observed in many biological systems, cell polarity emerges when active and inactive membrane-bound molecules diffuse at similar rates while cycling between cytoplasm and membrane takes place. The recent studies of Rätz and Röger showed that, when the cytosolic and membrane diffusion are very different, spontaneous polarization is possible even if the membrane-bound species diffuse at the same rate. In this paper, we formulate a two-equation non-local reaction-diffusion model with general forms of positive feedback. We apply Turing stability analysis to identify parameter conditions for achieving cell polarization. Our results show that spontaneous polarization can be achieved within some parameter ranges even when active and inactive signaling molecules diffuse at similar rates. In addition, different forms of positive feedback are explored to show that a non-local molecule-mediated feedback is important for sharping the localization as well as giving rise to fast dynamics to achieve robust polarization.

Research Area(s)

  • Budding yeast, Cell polarization, Non-local feedback, Turing stability analysis

Citation Format(s)

Mathematical Analysis of Spontaneous Emergence of Cell Polarity. / Lo, Wing-Cheong; Park, Hay-Oak; Chou, Ching-Shan.
In: Bulletin of Mathematical Biology, Vol. 76, No. 8, 01.09.2014, p. 1835-1865.

Research output: Journal Publications and ReviewsRGC 21 - Publication in refereed journalpeer-review