Cell polarity refers to a functional spatial organization of proteins that is crucial for the control of essential cellular processes such as growth and division. To establish polarity, cells rely on elaborate regulation networks that control the distribution of proteins at the cell membrane. In fission yeast cells, a microtubule-dependent network has been identified that polarizes the distribution of signaling proteins that restricts growth to cell ends and targets the cytokinetic machinery to the middle of the cell. Although many molecular components have been shown to play a role in this network, it remains unknown which molecular functionalities are minimally required to establish a polarized protein distribution in this system. Here we show that a membrane-binding protein fragment, which distributes homogeneously in wild-type fission yeast cells, can be made to concentrate at cell ends by attaching it to a cytoplasmic microtubule end-binding protein. This concentration results in a polarized pattern of chimera proteins with a spatial extension that is very reminiscent of natural polarity patterns in fission yeast. However, chimera levels fluctuate in response to microtubule dynamics, and disruption of microtubules leads to disappearance of the pattern. Numerical simulations confirm that the combined functionality of membrane anchoring and microtubule tip affinity is in principle sufficient to create polarized patterns. Our chimera protein may thus represent a simple molecular functionality that is able to polarize the membrane, onto which additional layers of molecular complexity may be built to provide the temporal robustness that is typical of natural polarity patterns.

Additional Metadata
Publisher PNAS
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1419248113
Journal PNAS
Recouvreux, P, Sokolowski, T.R, Grammoustianou, A, ten Wolde, P.R, & Dogterom, M. (2016). Chimera proteins with affinity for membranes and microtubule tips polarize in the membrane of fission yeast cells. PNAS, 113(7), 1811–1816. doi:10.1073/pnas.1419248113