PerspectiveCell Biology

Cells Listen to Their Inner Voice

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Science  07 Feb 2014:
Vol. 343, Issue 6171, pp. 624-625
DOI: 10.1126/science.1250244

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Picture yourself on top of a mountain shouting out aloud—alone. You will hear only your own voice and its echoes. Now, picture yourself in a crowded stadium cheering for your team. You will hear the collective voice of all those cheering around you. Scaled down a million times, this phenomenon can occur in a population of cells. On page 628 of this issue, Youk and Lim demonstrate (1) two distinct modes of communication in yeast cells: self-communication, in which a cell primarily senses the signal produced by itself, and neighbor communication, in which a cell senses the signal collectively produced by all cells nearby. These properties have important implications for understanding cell dynamics in different biological contexts and across species, and for exploring design principles of biological networks.