Spots, stripes, and spiral waves in models for static and motile cells: GTPase patterns in cells

Yue Liu*, Elisabeth G. Rens, Leah Edelstein-Keshet

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
50 Downloads (Pure)


The polarization and motility of eukaryotic cells depends on assembly and contraction of the actin cytoskeleton and its regulation by proteins called GTPases. The activity of GTPases causes assembly of filamentous actin (by GTPases Cdc42, Rac), resulting in protrusion of the cell edge. Mathematical models for GTPase dynamics address the spontaneous formation of patterns and nonuniform spatial distributions of such proteins in the cell. Here we revisit the wave-pinning model for GTPase-induced cell polarization, together with a number of extensions proposed in the literature. These include introduction of sources and sinks of active and inactive GTPase (by the group of A. Champneys), and negative feedback from F-actin to GTPase activity. We discuss these extensions singly and in combination, in 1D, and 2D static domains. We then show how the patterns that form (spots, waves, and spirals) interact with cell boundaries to create a variety of interesting and dynamic cell shapes and motion.

Original languageEnglish
Article number28
JournalJournal of Mathematical Biology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • GTPase
  • Intracellular signaling
  • Local perturbation analysis
  • Pattern formation
  • Static and moving boundary computation
  • wave-pinning


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