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Geßele, Raphaela; Halatek, Jacob; Würthner, Laeschkir; Frey, Erwin (2020): Geometric cues stabilise long-axis polarisation of PAR protein patterns in C. elegans. In: Nature Communications, Vol. 11, No. 1, 539
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In the Caenorhabditis elegans zygote, PAR protein patterns, driven by mutual anatagonism, determine the anterior-posterior axis and facilitate the redistribution of proteins for the first cell division. Yet, the factors that determine the selection of the polarity axis remain unclear. We present a reaction-diffusion model in realistic cell geometry, based on biomolecular reactions and accounting for the coupling between membrane and cytosolic dynamics. We find that the kinetics of the phosphorylation-dephosphorylation cycle of PARs and the diffusive protein fluxes from the cytosol towards the membrane are crucial for the robust selection of the anterior-posterior axis for polarisation. The local ratio of membrane surface to cytosolic volume is the main geometric cue that initiates pattern formation, while the choice of the long-axis for polarisation is largely determined by the length of the aPAR-pPAR interface, and mediated by processes that minimise the diffusive fluxes of PAR proteins between cytosol and membrane.