How Does the Xenopus laevis Embryonic Cell Cycle Avoid Spatial Chaos?

Lendert Gelens, Kerwyn Casey Huang, James E. Ferrell Jr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Theoretical studies have shown that a deterministic biochemical oscillator can become chaotic when operating over a sufficiently large volume and have suggested that the Xenopus laevis cell cycle oscillator operates close to such a chaotic regime. To experimentally test this hypothesis, we decreased the speed of the post-fertilization calcium wave, which had been predicted to generate chaos. However, cell divisions were found to develop normally, and eggs developed into normal tadpoles. Motivated by these experiments, we carried out modeling studies to understand the prerequisites for the predicted spatial chaos. We showed that this type of spatial chaos requires oscillatory reaction dynamics with short pulse duration and postulated that the mitotic exit in Xenopus laevis is likely slow enough to avoid chaos. In systems with shorter pulses, chaos may be an important hazard, as in cardiac arrhythmias, or a useful feature, as in the pigmentation of certain mollusk shells.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)892-900
Number of pages9
JournalCell Reports
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 4 Aug 2015


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