Protein Pattern Formation

  • Erwin FreyEmail author
  • Jacob Halatek
  • Simon Kretschmer
  • Petra Schwille


Protein pattern formation is essential for the spatial organisation of many intracellular processes like cell division, flagellum positioning, and chemotaxis. A prominent example of intracellular patterns are the oscillatory pole-to-pole oscillations of Min proteins in E. coli whose biological function is to ensure precise cell division. Cell polarisation, a prerequisite for processes such as stem cell differentiation and cell polarity in yeast, is also mediated by a diffusion–reaction process. More generally, these functional modules of cells serve as model systems for self-organisation, one of the core principles of life. Under which conditions spatio-temporal patterns emerge, and how these patterns are regulated by biochemical and geometrical factors are major aspects of current research. Here we review recent theoretical and experimental advances in the field of intracellular pattern formation, focusing on general design principles and fundamental physical mechanisms.


Pattern formation Intracellular dynamics Min oscillations Cell polarity Self-organisation Proteins Membranes 



We thank Fridtjof Brauns, Yaron Caspi, Cees Dekker, Jonas Denk, and Fabai Wu for helpful discussions. This research was supported by the German Excellence Initiative via the program “NanoSystems Initiative Munich” (NIM), and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) via project A09 and B02 within the Collaborative Research Center (SFB 1032) “Nanoagents for spatio-temporal control of molecular and cellular reactions”. SK was supported by a DFG fellowship through QBM.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Erwin Frey
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jacob Halatek
    • 1
  • Simon Kretschmer
    • 2
    • 3
  • Petra Schwille
    • 2
  1. 1.Arnold-Sommerfeld-Center for Theoretical Physics and Center for NanoScience, Department of PhysicsLudwig-Maximilians-Universität MünchenMünchenGermany
  2. 2.Department of Cellular and Molecular BiophysicsMax-Planck-Institute of BiochemistryMartinsriedGermany
  3. 3.Graduate School of Quantitative BiosciencesLudwig-Maximilians-Universität MünchenMünchenGermany

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