Cell patterning by secretion-induced plasma membrane flows

Sci Adv. 2021 Sep 17;7(38):eabg6718. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.abg6718. Epub 2021 Sep 17.


Cells self-organize using reaction-diffusion and fluid-flow principles. Whether bulk membrane flows contribute to cell patterning has not been established. Here, using mathematical modeling, optogenetics, and synthetic probes, we show that polarized exocytosis causes lateral membrane flows away from regions of membrane insertion. Plasma membrane–associated proteins with sufficiently low diffusion and/or detachment rates couple to the flows and deplete from areas of exocytosis. In rod-shaped fission yeast cells, zones of Cdc42 GTPase activity driving polarized exocytosis are limited by GTPase activating proteins (GAPs). We show that membrane flows pattern the GAP Rga4 distribution and that coupling of a synthetic GAP to membrane flows is sufficient to establish the rod shape. Thus, membrane flows induced by Cdc42-dependent exocytosis form a negative feedback restricting the zone of Cdc42 activity.