Cell competition is a struggle for existence between cells in heterogeneous tissues of multicellular organisms. Loser cells, which die during cell competition, are normally viable when grown only with other loser cells, but when mixed with winner cells, they are at a growth disadvantage and undergo apoptosis. Intriguingly, several recent studies have revealed that cells bearing mutant tumor-suppressor genes, which show overgrowth and tumorigenesis in a homotypic situation, are frequently eliminated, through cell competition, from tissues in which they are surrounded by wild-type cells. Here, we focus on the regulation of cellular competitiveness and the mechanism of cell competition as inferred from two different categories of mutant cells: (1) slower-growing cells and (2) structurally defective cells. We also discuss the possible role of cell competition as an intrinsic homeostasis system through which normal cells sense and remove aberrant cells, such as precancerous cells, to maintain the integrity and normal development of tissues and organs.
Copyright © 2011. Published by Elsevier Ltd.