Cell competition and its implications for development and cancer

J Genet Genomics. 2011 Oct 20;38(10):483-95. doi: 10.1016/j.jgg.2011.09.006. Epub 2011 Sep 21.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / genetics
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / genetics*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics*
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / cytology*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics
  • Homeostasis / genetics
  • Humans
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / genetics*
  • Mutation / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / genetics*
  • Transcription Factors / genetics*
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins / genetics
  • Wnt Signaling Pathway / genetics*


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Myc protein, Drosophila
  • Transcription Factors
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • hpo protein, Drosophila