The mechanisms and design principles of regulatory systems establishing stable polarized protein patterns within cells are well studied. However, cells can also dynamically control their cell polarity. Here, we ask how an upstream signaling system can switch the orientation of a polarized pattern. We use a mathematical model of a core polarity system based on three proteins as the basis to study different mechanisms of signal-induced polarity switching. The analysis of this model reveals four general classes of switching mechanisms with qualitatively distinct behaviors: the transient oscillator switch, the reset switch, the prime-release switch, and the push switch. Each of these regulatory mechanisms effectively implements the function of a spatial toggle switch, however with different characteristics in their nonlinear and stochastic dynamics. We identify these characteristics and also discuss experimental signatures of each type of switching mechanism. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.
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