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Dev Cell. 2004 Sep;7(3):413-24.

Cortical flows powered by asymmetrical contraction transport PAR proteins to establish and maintain anterior-posterior polarity in the early C. elegans embryo.

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Center for Cell Dynamics, Friday Harbor, WA 98250, USA.


The C. elegans PAR proteins PAR-3, PAR-6, and PKC-3 are asymmetrically localized and have essential roles in cell polarity. We show that the one-cell C. elegans embryo contains a dynamic and contractile actomyosin network that appears to be destabilized near the point of sperm entry. This asymmetry initiates a flow of cortical nonmuscle myosin (NMY-2) and F-actin toward the opposite, future anterior, pole. PAR-3, PAR-6, and PKC-3, as well as non-PAR proteins that associate with the cytoskeleton, appear to be transported to the anterior by this cortical flow. In turn, PAR-3, PAR-6, and PKC-3 modulate cortical actomyosin dynamics and promote cortical flow. PAR-2, which localizes to the posterior cortex, inhibits NMY-2 from accumulating at the posterior cortex during flow, thus maintaining asymmetry by preventing inappropriate, posterior-directed flows. Similar actomyosin flows accompany the establishment of PAR asymmetries that form after the one-cell stage, suggesting that actomyosin-mediated cortical flows have a general role in PAR asymmetry.

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