Localization of messenger RNA (mRNA) at the vegetal cortex plays an important role in the early development of Xenopus laevis oocytes. While it is known that molecular motors are responsible for the transport of mRNA cargo along microtubules to the cortex, the mechanisms of localization remain unclear. We model cargo transport along microtubules using partial differential equations with spatially dependent rates. A theoretical analysis of reduced versions of our model predicts effective velocity and diffusion rates for the cargo and shows that randomness of microtubule networks enhances effective transport. A more complex model using parameters estimated from fluorescence microscopy data reproduces the time and spatial scales of mRNA localization observed in Xenopus oocytes, corroborates experimental hypotheses that anchoring may be necessary to achieve complete localization, and shows that anchoring of mRNA complexes actively transported to the cortex is most effective in achieving robust accumulation at the cortex.


  1. intracellular transport
  2. microtubules
  3. anchoring
  4. long-time dynamics
  5. reaction-diffusion model

MSC codes

  1. 35B40
  2. 35K57
  3. 92C15
  4. 92C40

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Supplementary Material

Index of Supplementary Materials

Title of paper: Modeling microtubule-based transport and anchoring of mRNA

Authors: Maria-Veronica Ciocanel, Björn Sandstede, Samantha P Jeschonek, and Kimberly L Mowry

File: M118608_01.avi

Type: Video File

Contents: The video illustrates model-predicted localization of mRNA particles throughout a 24-hour period.


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Information & Authors


Published In

cover image SIAM Journal on Applied Dynamical Systems
SIAM Journal on Applied Dynamical Systems
Pages: 2855 - 2881
ISSN (online): 1536-0040


Submitted: 8 May 2018
Accepted: 26 October 2018
Published online: 18 December 2018


  1. intracellular transport
  2. microtubules
  3. anchoring
  4. long-time dynamics
  5. reaction-diffusion model

MSC codes

  1. 35B40
  2. 35K57
  3. 92C15
  4. 92C40



Funding Information

Division of Mathematical Sciences https://doi.org/10.13039/100000121 : 1440386
National Science Foundation https://doi.org/10.13039/100000001 : 1714429, 1740741, R01GM071049

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