Cell polarity arises through the spatial segregation of polarity regulators. PAR proteins are polarity regulators that localize asymmetrically to two opposing cortical domains. However, it is unclear how the spatially segregated PAR proteins interact to maintain their mutually exclusive partitioning. Here, single-molecule detection analysis in Caenorhabditis elegans embryos reveals that cortical PAR-2 diffuses only short distances, and, as a result, most PAR-2 molecules associate and dissociate from the cortex without crossing into the opposing domain. Our results show that cortical PAR-2 asymmetry is maintained by the local exchange reactions that occur at the cortical-cytoplasmic boundary. Additionally, we demonstrate that local exchange reactions are sufficient to maintain cortical asymmetry in a parameter-free mathematical model. These findings suggest that anterior and posterior PAR proteins primarily interact through the cytoplasmic pool and not via cortical diffusion.
Copyright © 2016 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.