Competitive Interactions Between Cells: Death, Growth, and Geography

Science  26 Jun 2009:
Vol. 324, Issue 5935, pp. 1679-1682
DOI: 10.1126/science.1163862

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Winner Takes All?

Competition between individual cells plays a role in normal animal development and cell homeostasis. Johnston (p. 1679) reviews two situations of cell competition in Drosophila, one involving epithelial cells in the wing and another involving germline or somatic stem cells. “Loss” in cell competition is evidenced by the “weaker” cell's death or displacement. On the other hand, winners may engulf the loser or display enhanced proliferation. Competitive interactions allow cells to sense and eliminate poor-quality cells during development.


Competitive interactions between cells are the basis of many homeostatic processes in biology. Some of the best-described cases of competition between cells occur in Drosophila: cell competition, whereby somatic cells within a growing epithelium compete with one another for contribution to the adult, and stem cell competition, in which germline or somatic stem cells vie for residency in the niche. Both types of competition are conserved physiological processes, with much to tell us about how cellular neighborhoods influence cell behavior, and have importance to stem cell biology, regeneration and transplantation, and cancer.

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