Cell - Cell signalling in sexual chemotaxis: A basis for gametic differentiation, mating types and sexes

Zena Hadjivasiliou, Yoh Iwasa, Andrew Pomiankowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


While sex requires two parents, there is no obvious need for them to be differentiated into distinct mating types or sexes. Yet this is the predominate state of nature. Here, we argue that mating types could play a decisive role because they prevent the apparent inevitability of self-stimulation during sexual signalling. We rigorously assess this hypothesis by developing a model for signaller-detector dynamics based on chemical diffusion, chemotaxis and cell movement. Our model examines the conditions under which chemotaxis improves partner finding. Varying parameter values within ranges typical of protists and their environments, we show that simultaneous secretion and detection of a single chemoattractant can cause a multifold movement impediment and severely hinder mate finding. Mutually exclusive roles result in faster pair formation, even when cells conferring the same roles cannot pair up. This arrangement also allows the separate mating types to optimize their signalling or detecting roles, which is effectively impossible for cells that are both secretors and detectors. Our findings suggest that asymmetric roles in sexual chemotaxis (and possibly other forms of sexual signalling) are crucial, even without morphological differences, and may underlie the evolution of gametic differentiation among both mating types and sexes.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of the Royal Society Interface
Issue number109
Publication statusPublished - Aug 6 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Biophysics
  • Bioengineering
  • Biomaterials
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering


Dive into the research topics of 'Cell - Cell signalling in sexual chemotaxis: A basis for gametic differentiation, mating types and sexes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this