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Halatek, J.; Brauns, F.; Frey, E. (2018): Self-organization principles of intracellular pattern formation. In: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences, Vol. 373, No. 1747, 20170107
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Abstract

Dynamic patterning of specific proteins is essential for the spatio-temporal regulation of many important intracellular processes in prokaryotes, eukaryotes and multicellular organisms. The emergence of patterns generated by interactions of diffusing proteins is a paradigmatic example for self-organization. In this article, we review quantitative models for intracellular Min protein patterns in Escherichia coli, Cdc42 polarization in Saccharomyces cerevisiae and the bipolar PAR protein patterns found in Caenorhabditis elegans. By analysing the molecular processes driving these systems we derive a theoretical perspective on general principles underlying self-organized pattern formation. We argue that intracellular pattern formation is not captured by concepts such as 'activators', 'inhibitors' or 'substrate depletion'. Instead, intracellular pattern formation is based on the redistribution of proteins by cytosolic diffusion, and the cycling of proteins between distinct conformational states. Therefore, mass-conserving reaction-diffusion equations provide the most appropriate framework to study intracellular pattern formation. We conclude that directed transport, e.g. cytosolic diffusion along an actively maintained cytosolic gradient, is the key process underlying pattern formation. Thus the basic principle of self-organization is the establishment and maintenance of directed transport by intracellular protein dynamics.