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      Sharp interface limit in a phase field model of cell motility


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          We consider a system of two PDEs arising in modeling of motility of eukariotic cells on substrates. This system consists of the Allen-Cahn equation for the scalar phase field function coupled with another vectorial parabolic equation for the orientation of the actin filament network. The two key properties of this system are (i) presence of gradients in the coupling terms (gradient coupling) and (ii) mass (volume) preservation constraints. We first prove that the sharp interface property of initial conditions is preserved in time. Next we formally derive the equation of the motion of the interface, which is the mean curvature motion perturbed by a nonlinear term that appears due to the properties (i)-(ii). This novel term leads to surprising features of the the motion of the interface. Because of these properties maximum principle and classical comparison techniques do not apply to this system. Furthermore, the system can not be written in a form of gradient flow, which is why recently developed Gamma-convergence techniques also can not be used for the justification of the formal derivation. Such justification is presented in a one-dimensional model problem and it leads to a stability result in a class of 'sharp interface' initial data.

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