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Active poroelastic two-phase model for the motion of physarum microplasmodia

Kulawiak, Dirk Alexander; Löber, Jakob; Bär, Markus; Engel, Harald

The onset of self-organized motion is studied in a poroelastic two-phase model with free boundaries for Physarum microplasmodia (MP). In the model, an active gel phase is assumed to be interpenetrated by a passive fluid phase on small length scales. A feedback loop between calcium kinetics, mechanical deformations, and induced fluid flow gives rise to pattern formation and the establishment of an axis of polarity. Altogether, we find that the calcium kinetics that breaks the conservation of the total calcium concentration in the model and a nonlinear friction between MP and substrate are both necessary ingredients to obtain an oscillatory movement with net motion of the MP. By numerical simulations in one spatial dimension, we find two different types of oscillations with net motion as well as modes with time-periodic or irregular switching of the axis of polarity. The more frequent type of net motion is characterized by mechano-chemical waves traveling from the front towards the rear. The second type is characterized by mechano-chemical waves that appear alternating from the front and the back. While both types exhibit oscillatory forward and backward movement with net motion in each cycle, the trajectory and gel flow pattern of the second type are also similar to recent experimental measurements of peristaltic MP motion. We found moving MPs in extended regions of experimentally accessible parameters, such as length, period and substrate friction strength. Simulations of the model show that the net speed increases with the length, provided that MPs are longer than a critical length of ≈ 120 μm. Both predictions are in line with recent experimental observations.
Published in: PLOS ONE, 10.1371/journal.pone.0217447, PLOS