NYU Courant Institute and Harvard Center for Systems Biology
November 18, 2014
How cells tell left from right: Active Chiral Processes in Soft Biological Matter
Many processes in developmental biology break left-right symmetry with a consistent handedness. In many species the primary determinant of this asymmetry has been linked to the actin cytoskeleton. We hypothesized that active chiral processes in the cell cortex might be at the origin of this symmetry breakage. To test our idea we developed a thin-film active chiral fluid theory that describes the cell cortex as a thin film of fluid that is kept out of equilibrium by molecular scale force and torque dipoles. We combine this theory with experimental analysis of the C. elegans embryo and uncover that the actomyosin cortex generates active chiral torques that facilitate chiral symmetry breakage.