The European Physical Journal Special Topics

, Volume 191, Issue 1, pp 159–172 | Cite as

A model for oscillations and pattern formation in protoplasmic droplets of Physarum polycephalum

  • M. RadszuweitEmail author
  • H. EngelEmail author
  • M. BärEmail author
Regular article


A mechano-chemical model for the spatiotemporal dynamics of free calcium and the thickness in protoplasmic droplets of the true slime mold Physarum polycephalum is derived starting from a physiologically detailed description of intracellular calcium oscillations proposed by Smith and Saldana (Biopys. J. 61, 368 (1992)). First, we have modified the Smith-Saldana model for the temporal calcium dynamics in order to reproduce the experimentally observed phase relation between calcium and mechanical tension oscillations. Then, we formulate a model for spatiotemporal dynamics by adding spatial coupling in the form of calcium diffusion and advection due to calcium-dependent mechanical contraction. In another step, the resulting reaction-diffusion model with mechanical coupling is simplified to a reaction-diffusion model with global coupling that approximates the mechanical part. We perform a bifurcation analysis of the local dynamics and observe a Hopf bifurcation upon increase of a biochemical activity parameter. The corresponding reaction-diffusion model with global coupling shows regular and chaotic spatiotemporal behaviour for parameters with oscillatory dynamics. In addition, we show that the global coupling leads to a long-wavelength instability even for parameters where the local dynamics possesses a stable spatially homogeneous steady state. This instability causes standing waves with a wavelength of twice the system size in one dimension. Simulations of the model in two dimensions are found to exhibit defect-mediated turbulence as well as various types of spiral wave patterns in qualitative agreement with earlier experimental observation by Takagi and Ueda (Physica D, 237, 420 (2008)).


European Physical Journal Special Topic Linear Stability Analysis Mechanical Part Spatiotemporal Dynamic Physarum Polycephalum 
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Copyright information

© EDP Sciences and Springer 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt, Department for Mathematical Modelling and Data AnalysisBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Technische Universität Berlin, Institute for Theoretical PhysicsBerlinGermany

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