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Wu, Fabai; Halatek, Jacob; Reiter, Matthias; Kingma, Enzo; Frey, Erwin and Dekker, Cees (2016): Multistability and dynamic transitions of intracellular Min protein patterns. In: Molecular Systems Biology, Vol. 12, No. 6, 873 [PDF, 3MB]

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Cells owe their internal organization to self-organized protein patterns, which originate and adapt to growth and external stimuli via a process that is as complex as it is little understood. Here, we study the emergence, stability, and state transitions of multistable Min protein oscillation patterns in live Escherichia coli bacteria during growth up to defined large dimensions. De novo formation of patterns from homogenous starting conditions is observed and studied both experimentally and in simulations. A new theoretical approach is developed for probing pattern stability under perturbations. Quantitative experiments and simulations show that, once established, Min oscillations tolerate a large degree of intracellular heterogeneity, allowing distinctly different patterns to persist in different cells with the same geometry. Min patterns maintain their axes for hours in experiments, despite imperfections, expansion, and changes in cell shape during continuous cell growth. Transitions between multistable Min patterns are found to be rare events induced by strong intracellular perturbations. The instances of multistability studied here are the combined outcome of boundary growth and strongly nonlinear kinetics, which are characteristic of the reaction-diffusion patterns that pervade biology at many scales.

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