Institute for the Physics of Living Systems


New study by the Goehring Lab published in Journal of Cell Biology

2 June 2023

New research by the Goehring Lab, published in Journal of Cell Biology, explores how membrane-associated molecules are transported by cortical actin flows to drive cell polarity.

NG paper

Clustering of membrane-associated molecules is thought to promote interactions with the actomyosin cortex, enabling size-dependent transport by actin flows. Consistent with this model, in the Caenorhabditis elegans zygote, efficient anterior segregation of the polarity protein PAR-3 requires oligomerization. However, through direct assessment of local coupling between motion of PAR proteins and the underlying cortex, we find no links between PAR-3 oligomer size and the degree of coupling. Indeed, both anterior and posterior PAR proteins experience similar advection velocities, at least over short distances. Consequently, differential cortex engagement cannot account for selectivity of PAR protein segregation by cortical flows. Combining experiment and theory, we demonstrate that a key determinant of differential segregation of PAR proteins by cortical flow is the stability of membrane association, which is enhanced by clustering and enables transport across cellular length scales. Thus, modulation of membrane binding dynamics allows cells to achieve selective transport by cortical flows despite widespread coupling between membrane-associated molecules and the cell cortex.