Centric diatom morphogenesis: a model based on a DLA algorithm investigating the potential role of microtubules

John Parkinson, Yves Brechet, Richard Gordon

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Diatoms are single-celled algae which possess characteristic rigid cell walls (frustules) composed of amorphous silica. Frustule formation occurs within a specialised organelle termed the silica deposition vesicle (SDV). During diatom morphogenesis, silica particles are transported to the SDV by silica transport vesicles. Once released within the SDV, the particles are then thought to diffuse until they encounter part of the growing aggregate upon which they adhere. The particles may then undergo a further period of surface relocalisation (sintering) which leads to a smoothing of the surface. A number of computer simulations based on a modified diffusion-limited aggregation (DLA) algorithm, have been undertaken to investigate the potential role of microtubules (which are known to be associated with the periphery of the SDV) in localising deposition of new siliceous material. Based on our findings, we present a new model of diatom morphogenesis which is able to account for many morphological features of diatoms including the influence of environmental effects such as changes in pH and salinity, and the formation of a regular branched pattern.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-102
Number of pages14
JournalBBA Molecular Cell Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 13 Oct 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Computer simulation
  • Diatom
  • Diffusion-limited aggregation
  • Microtubule
  • Morphogenesis

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