Modeling evolution of the self-organized microtubule steady-state under an increase of the number of dynein complexes (from Frolov et al. (2024)).

Cellular components spontaneously arrange themselves in a highly regulated way to maintain the structure and function of the cell. The intrinsic ability of the cell to self-organize contributes to its resilience, adaptability, and ability to respond to various environmental cues. It also plays a pivotal role in the crucial steps of the cell cycle, e.g., cell division and morphogenesis. From the dynamic assembly of cytoskeletal elements to the orchestrated movements of organelles within the cytoplasm, self-organization ensures the precise organization necessary for cellular activities.

Our lab aims to understand the physical principles of the cytoskeleton self-organization comprised of the microtubule and actin networks and their interaction with the dynamics of the cell-cycle regulators in setting the pace of the cell cycle in early embryonic development. We achieve this goal by combining in vitro experiments in X. laevis egg extracts with theoretical analysis and computational modeling of the filament-protein mixtures.

Such cytoplasmic cell-free extracts, which result from separating the cytoplasmic content of a cell from its cellular membrane. Extracts surprisingly revealed the possibility to reconstruct and visualize cell cycle oscillations in vitro over many hours, allowing the characterization of the temporal dynamics of key cell cycle regulators. Moreover, the extract is more than just the cytosol, and numerous studies demonstrated it is full of subcellular structures able to spatially self-organize in different ways. For example, nuclei form upon the addition of genetic exogenous material, and the cytoskeleton assembles into diverse structures (e.g, microtubule asters, mitotic spindles, actomyosin networks).

Selected publications



Frolov, N.; Bijnens, B.; Ruiz-Reynés, D.; Gelens, L.

Dynein-driven self-organization of microtubules: An entropy- and network-based analysis

In: Chaos, Solitons & Fractals, vol. 184, pp. 115053, 2024.

Abstract | Links | BibTeX


Cebrián-Lacasa, D.; Parra-Rivas, P.; Ruiz-Reynés, D.; Gelens, L.

Six decades of the FitzHugh-Nagumo model: A guide through its spatio-temporal dynamics and influence across disciplines

2024, visited: 17.04.2024.

Links | BibTeX


Nolet, F. E.; Gelens, L.

Mitotic waves in an import-diffusion model with multiple nuclei in a shared cytoplasm

In: Biosystems, vol. 208, pp. 104478, 2021, ISSN: 0303-2647.

Links | BibTeX


Rombouts, J.; Gelens, L.

Synchronizing an Oscillatory Medium: The Speed of Pacemaker-Generated Waves

In: Physical Review Research, vol. 2, no. 4, pp. 043038, 2020.

Links | BibTeX


Nolet, F. E. *; Vandervelde, A. *; Vanderbeke, A. *; Pineros, L. *; Chang, J. B.; Gelens, L.

Nuclei determine the spatial origin of mitotic waves

In: eLife, vol. 9, pp. e52868, 2020, ISSN: 2050-084X.

Links | BibTeX


Gelens, L.; Huang, K. C.; Jr., J. E. Ferrell

How does the Xenopus laevis embryonic cell cycle avoid spatial chaos?

In: Cell Reports, vol. 12, no. 5, pp. 892–900, 2015, ISSN: 2211-1247.

Abstract | Links | BibTeX