Spatial models of pattern formation during phagocytosis

John Cody Herron, Shiqiong Hu, Bei Liu, Takashi Watanabe, Klaus M. Hahn, Timothy C. Elston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Phagocytosis, the biological process in which cells ingest large particles such as bacteria, is a key component of the innate immune response. Fcγ receptor (FcγR)-mediated phagocytosis is initiated when these receptors are activated after binding immunoglobulin G (IgG). Receptor activation initiates a signaling cascade that leads to the formation of the phagocytic cup and culminates with ingestion of the foreign particle. In the experimental system termed “frustrated phagocytosis”, cells attempt to internalize micropatterned disks of IgG. Cells that engage in frustrated phagocytosis form “rosettes” of actin-enriched structures called podosomes around the IgG disk. The mechanism that generates the rosette pattern is unknown. We present data that supports the involvement of Cdc42, a member of the Rho family of GTPases, in pattern formation. Cdc42 acts downstream of receptor activation, upstream of actin polymerization, and is known to play a role in polarity establishment. Reaction-diffusion models for GTPase spatiotemporal dynamics exist. We demonstrate how the addition of negative feedback and minor changes to these models can generate the experimentally observed rosette pattern of podosomes. We show that this pattern formation can occur through two general mechanisms. In the first mechanism, an intermediate species forms a ring of high activity around the IgG disk, which then promotes rosette organization. The second mechanism does not require initial ring formation but relies on spatial gradients of intermediate chemical species that are selectively activated over the IgG patch. Finally, we analyze the models to suggest experiments to test their validity.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1010092
JournalPLoS Computational Biology
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 10-2022
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Modelling and Simulation
  • Ecology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics


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