Controlling contractile instabilities in the actomyosin cortex

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The actomyosin cell cortex is an active contractile material for driving cell- and tissue morphogenesis. The cortex has a tendency to form a pattern of myosin foci, which is a signature of potentially unstable behavior. How a system that is prone to such instabilities can rveliably drive morphogenesis remains an outstanding question. Here, we report that in the Caenorhabditis elegans zygote, feedback between active RhoA and myosin induces a contractile instability in the cortex. We discover that an independent RhoA pacemaking oscillator controls this instability, generating a pulsatory pattern of myosin foci and preventing the collapse of cortical material into a few dynamic contracting regions. Our work reveals how contractile instabilities that are natural to occur in mechanically active media can be biochemically controlled to robustly drive morphogenetic events.




Nishikawa, M., Naganathan, S. R., Jülicher, F., & Grill, S. W. (2017). Controlling contractile instabilities in the actomyosin cortex. ELife, 6.

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