On Chirality of Slime Mould

Biosystems. 2016 Feb;140:23-7. doi: 10.1016/j.biosystems.2015.12.008. Epub 2015 Dec 30.


Left-right patterning and lateralised behaviour is an ubiquitous aspect of plants and animals. The mechanisms linking cellular chirality to the large-scale asymmetry of multicellular structures are incompletely understood, and it has been suggested that the chirality of living cells is hardwired in their cytoskeleton. We examined the question of biased asymmetry in a unique organism: the slime mould Physarum polycephalum, which is unicellular yet possesses macroscopic, complex structure and behaviour. In laboratory experiment using a T-shape, we found that Physarum turns right in more than 74% of trials. The results are in agreement with previously published studies on asymmetric movement of muscle cells, neutrophils, liver cells and growing neural filaments, and for the first time reveal the presence of consistently-biased laterality in the fungi kingdom. Exact mechanisms of the slime mould's direction preference remain unknown.

Keywords: Asymmetry; Chirality; Lateralised; Left-right patterning; Physarum polycephalum.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Body Patterning / physiology*
  • Cell Movement / physiology*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Models, Biological*
  • Models, Statistical*
  • Myxomycetes / cytology
  • Myxomycetes / growth & development
  • Physarum polycephalum / cytology*
  • Physarum polycephalum / growth & development*