Mechanism Of Signal Propagation In Physarum Polycephalum

Condensed Matter journal club

Mechanism Of Signal Propagation In Physarum Polycephalum

Event details

Complex behaviors are typically associated with animals, but the capacity to integrate information and function as a coordinated individual is also a ubiquitous but poorly understood feature of organisms such as slime molds and fungi. Plasmodial slime molds grow as networks and use flexible, undifferentiated body plans to forage for food. How an individual communicates across its network remains a puzzle, but Physarum polycephalum has emerged as a novel model used to explore emergent dynamics. Within P. polycephalum, cytoplasm is shuttled in a peristaltic wave driven by cross-sectional contractions of tubes. We first track P. polycephalum’s response to a localized nutrient stimulus and observe a front of increased contraction. The front propagates with a velocity comparable to the flow-driven dispersion of particles. We build a mathematical model based on these data and in the aggregate experiments and model identify the mechanism of signal propagation across a body: The nutrient stimulus triggers the release of a signaling molecule. The molecule is advected by fluid flows but simultaneously hijacks flow generation by causing local increases in contraction amplitude as it travels. The molecule is initiating a feedback loop to enable its own movement. This mechanism explains previously puzzling phenomena, including the adaptation of the peristaltic wave to organism size and P. polycephalum’s ability to find the shortest route between food sources. A simple feedback seems to give rise to P. polycephalum’s complex behaviors, and the same mechanism is likely to function in the thousands of additional species with similar behaviors.

Event resources

About Condensed Matter journal club

Given the diversity of research in the CM group, chosen topics vary widely. We tend to stick to high-impact journals - Nature, Science, PNAS and PRL have been popular - but this is not prescriptive..

Find out more about Condensed Matter journal club.