1. Physics of Living Systems
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Mapping out Min protein patterns in fully confined fluidic chambers

  1. Yaron Caspi  Is a corresponding author
  2. Cees Dekker  Is a corresponding author
  1. Kavli Institute of Nanoscience, Delft University of Technology, Netherlands
Research Article
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Cite this article as: eLife 2016;5:e19271 doi: 10.7554/eLife.19271


The bacterial Min protein system provides a major model system for studying reaction-diffusion processes in biology. Here we present the first in vitro study of the Min system in fully confined three-dimensional chambers that are lithography-defined, lipid-bilayer coated and isolated through pressure valves. We identify three typical dynamical behaviors that occur dependent on the geometrical chamber parameters: pole-to-pole oscillations, spiral rotations, and traveling waves. We establish the geometrical selection rules and show that, surprisingly, Min-protein spiral rotations govern the larger part of the geometrical phase diagram. Confinement as well as an elevated temperature reduce the characteristic wavelength of the Min patterns, although even for confined chambers with a bacterial-level viscosity, the patterns retain a ~5 times larger wavelength than in vivo. Our results provide an essential experimental base for modeling of intracellular Min gradients in bacterial cell division as well as, more generally, for understanding pattern formation in reaction-diffusion systems.

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Author details

  1. Yaron Caspi

    Department of Bionanoscience, Kavli Institute of Nanoscience, Delft University of Technology, Delft, Netherlands
    For correspondence
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0003-0328-0186
  2. Cees Dekker

    Department of Bionanoscience, Kavli Institute of Nanoscience, Delft University of Technology, Delft, Netherlands
    For correspondence
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.


Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (Frontiers of Nanoscience program)

  • Yaron Caspi
  • Cees Dekker

European Research Council (No. 669598)

  • Yaron Caspi
  • Cees Dekker

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.

Reviewing Editor

  1. David Sprinzak, Tel Aviv University, Israel

Publication history

  1. Received: June 30, 2016
  2. Accepted: November 24, 2016
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: November 25, 2016 (version 1)
  4. Version of Record published: January 5, 2017 (version 2)


© 2016, Caspi & Dekker

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.


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