From actin waves to mechanism and back: How theory aids biological understanding

Carsten Beta, Leah Edelstein-Keshet, Nir Gov, Arik Yochelis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Actin dynamics in cell motility, division, and phagocytosis is regulated by complex factors with multiple feedback loops, often leading to emergent dynamic patterns in the form of propagating waves of actin polymerization activity that are poorly understood. Many in the actin wave community have attempted to discern the underlying mechanisms using experiments and/or mathematical models and theory. Here, we survey methods and hypotheses for actin waves based on signaling networks, mechano-chemical effects, and transport characteristics, with examples drawn from Dictyostelium discoideum, human neutrophils, Caenorhabditis elegans, and Xenopus laevis oocytes. While experimentalists focus on the details of molecular components, theorists pose a central question of universality: Are there generic, model-independent, underlying principles, or just boundless cell-specific details? We argue that mathematical methods are equally important for understanding the emergence, evolution, and persistence of actin waves and conclude with a few challenges for future studies.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere87181
StatePublished - 10 Jul 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Neuroscience


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