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Biophys J. 2007 Feb 1;92(3):744-68. Epub 2006 Nov 10.

Phosphoinositides and Rho proteins spatially regulate actin polymerization to initiate and maintain directed movement in a one-dimensional model of a motile cell.

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Institute of Applied Mathematics and Department of Mathematics, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.


Gradient sensing, polarization, and chemotaxis of motile cells involve the actin cytoskeleton, and regulatory modules, including the phosphoinositides (PIs), their kinases/phosphatases, and small GTPases (Rho proteins). Here we model their individual components (PIP1, PIP2, PIP3; PTEN, PI3K, PI5K; Cdc42, Rac, Rho; Arp2/3, and actin), their interconversions, interactions, and modular functions in the context of a one-dimensional dynamic model for protrusive cell motility, with parameter values derived from in vitro and in vivo studies. In response to a spatially graded stimulus, the model produces stable amplified internal profiles of regulatory components, and initiates persistent motility (consistent with experimental observations). By connecting the modules, we find that Rho GTPases work as a spatial switch, and that the PIs filter noise, and define the front versus back. Relatively fast PI diffusion also leads to selection of a unique pattern of Rho distribution from a collection of possible patterns. We use the model to explore the importance of specific hypothesized interactions, to explore mutant phenotypes, and to study the role of actin polymerization in the maintenance of the PI asymmetry. We also suggest a mechanism to explain the spatial exclusion of Cdc42 and PTEN and the inability of cells lacking active Cdc42 to properly detect chemoattractant gradients.

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