Bacteria reproduce by dividing in half. But how do they know where the middle is? Interestingly, one protein, MinE, chases another, MinD, back and forth across the bacterium, in a constant “catch and release” dance. This centers the cell division machinery, insuring that both “daughter bacteria” are the same size. This image shows how the purified proteins can self-organize on a membrane coated microscope slide, obeying what we call a Turing pattern. Alan Turing, a brilliant British mathematician who broke the Enigma code to end WWII (featured in the movie, The Imitation Game) is our super-hero when it comes to self-organization. Fascinated with patterns, Turing was the first to propose a “reaction-diffusion” model that explains how molecular interactions can create the regularly repeating patterns seen in nature (zebra stripes, leopard spots). Widely admired now, Turing was not a hero in his own time. As a gay man at a time that it was illegal to be gay, he was chemically castrated, shunned and eventually committed suicide.
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