Reaction-Diffusion Prepatterns (Turing Structures): Supercomputer Simulation of Cytokinesis, Mitosis and Early Drosophila Morphogenesis

  • Axel Hunding
Part of the NATO ASI Series book series (NSSB, volume 270)


The spontaneous formation of complex patterns and form in biological systems is largely unexplained. Turing(1952) demonstrated however that autocatalytic biochemical reactions coupled to internal diffusion, but without external control, could break up from the original homogeneous state and form stable well defined inhomogeneous concentration gradients and patterns. General reaction-diffusion systems may be described by
$$\partial c = \partial t = F(c) + D\Delta c$$
where c is the concentration vector, F is the chemical kinetics rate vector and the last term describes Fickian diffusion. If the Jacobian J = ∂F/∂c, evaluated at the homogeneous steady state, is of one of the forms (a) or (b):
$$ J = \left( {\begin{array}{*{20}c} + & - \\ + & - \\ \end{array} } \right) (a) J = \left( {\begin{array}{*{20}c} + & - \\ + & - \\ \end{array} } \right) (b) $$
spontaneous pattern formation may occur if the rates and diffusion constants satisfy certain inequalities. In the case (a) one speaks of an activation-inhibition system, as c1 activates both its own formation and that of c2, and c2 inhibits both rates. The second class (b) was introduced by Sel’kov (1968) and studied by the socalled Brussels group, the leader of which, I. Prigogine, got the Nobel price in 1977. Their work demonstrates that Turing structures are fully compatible with the second law of thermodynamics since living systems are open systems and they showed (1974) with bifurcation theory that the patterns found in computer simulations are genuine solutions to the nonlinear partial differential equations above. References to early work on such spontaneous symmetry breaking in biochemical systems are found in (Nicolis and Prigogine, 1977).


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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Axel Hunding
    • 1
  1. 1.Chemistry Department C116, H. C. Ørsted InstituteUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagen ØDenmark

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