Mathematical model for cell competition: Predator-prey interactions at the interface between two groups of cells in monolayer tissue

J Theor Biol. 2016 Sep 7;404:40-50. doi: 10.1016/j.jtbi.2016.05.031. Epub 2016 May 24.


The phenomenon of 'cell competition' has been implicated in the normal development and maintenance of organs, such as in the regulation of organ size and suppression of neoplastic development. In cell competition, one group of cells competes with another group through an interaction at their interface. Which cell group "wins" is governed by a certain relative fitness within the cells. However, this idea of cellular fitness has not been clearly defined. We construct two types of mathematical models to describe this phenomenon of cell competition by considering the interaction at the interface as a predator-prey type interaction in a monolayer tissue such as epithelium. Both of these models can reproduce several typical experimental observations involving systems of mutant cells (losers) and normal cells (winners). By analyzing one of the model and defining an index for the degree of fitness in groups of cells, we show that the fate of each group mainly depends on the relative carrying capacities of certain resources and the strength of the predator-prey interaction at the interface. This contradicts the classical hypothesis in which the relative proliferation rate determines the winner.

Keywords: Drosophila; Group fitness; Individual cell-based model; Population model; Tumor suppression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Movement
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cells / metabolism*
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Mutation / genetics