Dissecting social cell biology and tumors using Drosophila genetics

Annu Rev Genet. 2013;47:51-74. doi: 10.1146/annurev-genet-110711-155414.


Cancer was seen for a long time as a strictly cell-autonomous process in which oncogenes and tumor-suppressor mutations drive clonal cell expansions. Research in the past decade, however, paints a more integrative picture of communication and interplay between neighboring cells in tissues. It is increasingly clear as well that tumors, far from being homogenous lumps of cells, consist of different cell types that function together as complex tissue-level communities. The repertoire of interactive cell behaviors and the quantity of cellular players involved call for a social cell biology that investigates these interactions. Research into this social cell biology is critical for understanding development of normal and tumoral tissues. Such complex social cell biology interactions can be parsed in Drosophila. Techniques in Drosophila for analysis of gene function and clonal behavior allow us to generate tumors and dissect their complex interactive biology with cellular resolution. Here, we review recent Drosophila research aimed at understanding tissue-level biology and social cell interactions in tumors, highlighting the principles these studies reveal.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Basement Membrane / physiology
  • Cell Adhesion
  • Cell Communication / genetics*
  • Cell Death
  • Cell Division
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / genetics*
  • Cellular Microenvironment
  • Clone Cells / cytology
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics
  • Drosophila Proteins / physiology
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics*
  • Genes, Insect
  • Genes, Tumor Suppressor
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Imaginal Discs / cytology
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Mitosis / radiation effects
  • Mosaicism
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasms, Experimental / genetics
  • Neoplasms, Experimental / immunology
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / cytology
  • Recombination, Genetic / radiation effects
  • Tumor Escape


  • Drosophila Proteins