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J R Soc Interface. 2017 Oct;14(135). pii: 20170466. doi: 10.1098/rsif.2017.0466.

A dynamically diluted alignment model reveals the impact of cell turnover on the plasticity of tissue polarity patterns.

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Centre for Information Services and High Performance Computing, Technische Universität Dresden, Dresden, Germany.
Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Dresden, Germany.
University of Applied Sciences Dresden, Dresden, Germany.
Centre for Information Services and High Performance Computing, Technische Universität Dresden, Dresden, Germany
Center for Advancing Electronics Dresden, Technische Universität Dresden, Dresden, Germany.


The polarization of cells and tissues is fundamental for tissue morphogenesis during biological development and regeneration. A deeper understanding of biological polarity pattern formation can be gained from the consideration of pattern reorganization in response to an opposing instructive cue, which we here consider using the example of experimentally inducible body axis inversions in planarian flatworms. We define a dynamically diluted alignment model linking three processes: entrainment of cell polarity by a global signal, local cell-cell coupling aligning polarity among neighbours, and cell turnover replacing polarized cells by initially unpolarized cells. We show that a persistent global orienting signal determines the final mean polarity orientation in this stochastic model. Combining numerical and analytical approaches, we find that neighbour coupling retards polarity pattern reorganization, whereas cell turnover accelerates it. We derive a formula for an effective neighbour coupling strength integrating both effects and find that the time of polarity reorganization depends linearly on this effective parameter and no abrupt transitions are observed. This allows us to determine neighbour coupling strengths from experimental observations. Our model is related to a dynamic 8-Potts model with annealed site-dilution and makes testable predictions regarding the polarization of dynamic systems, such as the planarian epithelium.


interacting particle system; mathematical biology; mean-field analysis; planar cell polarity; planaria; regeneration

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