Skull sutures serve as growth centers whose function involves multiple molecular pathways. During periods of brain growth the sutures remain thin and straight, later developing complex fractal interdigitations that provide interlocking strength. The nature of the relationship between the molecular interactions and suture pattern formation is not understood. Here we show that by classifying the molecules involved into two groups, stabilizing factors and substrate molecules, complex molecular networks can be modeled by a simple two-species reaction-diffusion model that recapitulates all the known behavior of suture pattern formation. This model reproduces the maintenance of thin sutural tissue at early stages, the later modification of the straight suture to form osseous interdigitations, and the formation of fractal structures. Predictions from the model are in good agreement with experimental observations, indicating that the model captures the essential nature of the interdigitation process.
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