Robust formation of morphogen gradients

Phys Rev Lett. 2005 Jan 14;94(1):018103. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.94.018103. Epub 2005 Jan 6.


We discuss the formation of graded morphogen profiles in a cell layer by nonlinear transport phenomena, important for patterning developing organisms. We focus on a process termed transcytosis, where morphogen transport results from the binding of ligands to receptors on the cell surface, incorporation into the cell, and subsequent externalization. Starting from a microscopic model, we derive effective transport equations. We show that, in contrast to morphogen transport by extracellular diffusion, transcytosis leads to robust ligand profiles which are insensitive to the rate of ligand production.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Communication / physiology
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology*
  • Cell Physiological Phenomena*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Diffusion
  • Models, Biological*
  • Models, Chemical
  • Morphogenesis / physiology*
  • Protein Transport / physiology*
  • Transforming Growth Factors / chemistry
  • Transforming Growth Factors / metabolism*


  • Transforming Growth Factors