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PLoS Comput Biol. 2013;9(10):e1003287. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003287. Epub 2013 Oct 17.

Model of fission yeast cell shape driven by membrane-bound growth factors and the cytoskeleton.

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Department of Physics, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, United States of America.


Fission yeast serves as a model for how cellular polarization machinery consisting of signaling molecules and the actin and microtubule cytoskeleton regulates cell shape. In this work, we develop mathematical models to investigate how these cells maintain a tubular shape of approximately constant diameter. Many studies identify active Cdc42, found in a cap at the inner membrane of growing cell tips, as an important regulator of local cell wall remodeling, likely through control of exocyst tethering and the targeting of other polarity-enhancing structures. First, we show that a computational model with Cdc42-dependent local cell wall remodeling under turgor pressure predicts a relationship between spatial extent of growth signal and cell diameter that is in agreement with prior experiments. Second, we model the consequences of feedback between cell shape and distribution of Cdc42 growth signal at cell tips. We show that stability of cell diameter over successive cell divisions places restrictions on their mutual dependence. We argue that simple models where the spatial extent of the tip growth signal relies solely on geometrical alignment of confined microtubules might lead to unstable width regulation. Third, we study a computational model that combines a growth signal distributed over a characteristic length scale (as, for example, by a reaction-diffusion mechanism) with an axis-sensing microtubules system that places landmarks at positions where microtubule tips touch the cortex. A two-dimensional implementation of this model leads to stable cell diameter for a wide range of parameters. Changes to the parameters of this model reproduce straight, bent, and bulged cell shapes, and we discuss how this model is consistent with other observed cell shapes in mutants. Our work provides an initial quantitative framework for understanding the regulation of cell shape in fission yeast, and a scaffold for understanding this process on a more molecular level in the future.

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