Chemotaxis involves the coordinated action of separable but interrelated processes: motility, gradient sensing, and polarization. We have hypothesized that these are mediated by separate modules that account for these processes individually and that, when combined, recreate most of the behaviors of chemotactic cells. Here, we describe a mathematical model where the modules are implemented in terms of reaction-diffusion equations. Migration and the accompanying changes in cellular morphology are demonstrated in simulations using a mechanical model of the cell cortex implemented in the level set framework. The central module is an excitable network that accounts for random migration. The response to combinations of uniform stimuli and gradients is mediated by a local excitation, global inhibition module that biases the direction in which excitability is directed. A polarization module linked to the excitable network through the cytoskeleton allows unstimulated cells to move persistently and, for cells in gradients, to gradually acquire distinct sensitivity between front and back. Finally, by varying the strengths of various feedback loops in the model we obtain cellular behaviors that mirror those of genetically altered cell lines.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Modeling and Simulation
- Molecular Biology
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Computational Theory and Mathematics