Stripes, spots, or reversed spots in two-dimensional Turing systems

J Theor Biol. 2003 Oct 7;224(3):339-50. doi: 10.1016/s0022-5193(03)00170-x.


Two-dimensional Turing models can generate stationary striped patterns or spotted patterns, and are used to explain the body pattern formation of animals. We studied the effects of the choice of reaction terms on pattern selection, i.e., which pattern is likely to be formed. We examined in detail a model with linear reaction terms and additional constraint terms that confine two variables within a finite range. In the one-dimensional model, a periodic stationary pattern can be formed only when the activator level is constrained both from below and from above. In the two-dimensional model, the relative distance of the equilibrium level of the activator between the upper and lower limitations determines the pattern selection. Striped patterns are produced when the equilibrium is equally distant from the upper and the lower limitations, but spotted patterns are produced when the equilibrium is clearly closer to one than to the other of two limitations. We then examined models with nonlinear reaction terms, including both activator-inhibitor and activator-depletion substrate type models; we attempted to explain the pattern selection of these nonlinear models based on the results of linear models with constraints. The distribution of the activator level is skewed positively and negatively for spotted patterns and reversed spotted patterns, respectively. In contrast, the skew of the distribution of the activator level was close to zero in the case of striped patterns. This observation provides a heuristic argument of how the location of the equilibrium between the constraints leads to pattern selection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Patterning / physiology*
  • Computer Simulation*
  • Models, Biological
  • Models, Statistical*