DOI: 0705.0227May 2, 2007Paper

Self assembly of a model multicellular organism resembling the Dictyostelium slime molds

Graeme J. AcklandM H Cohen


The evolution of multicellular organisms from monocellular ancestors represents one of the greatest advances of the history of life. The assembly of such multicellular organisms requires signalling and response between cells: over millions of years these signalling processes have become extremely sophisticated and refined by evolution, such that study of modern organisms may not be able to shed much light on the original ancient processes . Here we are interested in determining how simple a signalling method can be, while still achieving self-assembly. In 2D a coupled cellular automaton/differential equation approach models organisms and chemotaxic chemicals, producing spiralling aggregation. In 3D Lennard-Jones-like particles are used to represent single cells, and their evolution in response to signalling is followed by molecular dynamics. It is found that if a single cell is able to emit a signal which induces others to move towards it, then a colony of single-cell organisms can assemble into shapes as complex as a tower, a ball atop a stalk, or a fast-moving slug. The similarity with the behaviour of modern Dictyostelium slime molds signalling with cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) is striking.

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