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Going with the flow: insights from Caenorhabditis elegans zygote polarization

(Gascon et al., 2020)

Cell polarity is the asymmetric distribution of cellular components along a defined axis. Polarity relies on complex signalling networks between conserved patterning proteins, including the PAR (partitioning defective) proteins, which become segregated in response to upstream symmetry breaking cues. Although the mechanisms that drive the asymmetric localization of these proteins are dependent upon cell type and context, in many cases the regulation of actomyosin cytoskeleton dynamics is central to the transport, recruitment and/or stabilization of these polarity effectors into defined subcellular domains. The transport or advection of PAR proteins by an actomyosin flow was first observed in the Caenorhabditis elegans zygote more than a decade ago. Since then a multifaceted approach, using molecular methods, high-throughput screens, and biophysical and computational models, has revealed further aspects of this flow and how polarity regulators respond to and modulate it. Here, we review recent findings on the interplay between actomyosin flow and the PAR patterning networks in the polarization of the C. elegans zygote. We also discuss how these discoveries and developed methods are shaping our understanding of other flow-dependent polarizing systems.