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Self-organization of Protein Patterns

by Erwin Frey,

Arnold Sommerfeld Center for Theoretical Physics and Center for NanoScience,

Department of Physics, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München

Theresienstraße 37, D-80333 München, Germany

and  Max Planck School Matter to Life

Hofgartenstraße 8, D-80539 Munich, Germany



The dynamic organisation of specific proteins is essential for the spatiotemporal regulation of many important intracellular processes in prokaryotes, eukaryotes, and multicellular organisms. The emergence of patterns resulting from interactions of diffusing proteins is a paradigmatic example of self-organisation in biology. In these lectures, we will discuss fundamental aspects of protein pattern formation as well as quantitative models for specific biological systems. By analyzing the molecular processes that drive these systems, we will develop a theoretical perspective on the general principles of self-assembled pattern formation. We will explain how intracellular pattern formation is based on the redistribution of proteins through cytosolic diffusion and the switching of proteins between different conformational states. We will also discuss how the dynamics of protein pattern formation are related in interesting ways to the dynamics of active matter systems and the coarsening dynamics in liquid-liquid phase separation.