Survival of the Fittest: Essential Roles of Cell Competition in Development, Aging, and Cancer

Trends Cell Biol. 2016 Oct;26(10):776-788. doi: 10.1016/j.tcb.2016.05.009. Epub 2016 Jun 16.


Multicellular organisms evolved to resolve conflicts between individual cells, protecting the internal organization of the individual. This is illustrated by cell competition, a process that eliminates suboptimal cells from growing tissues by apoptosis. Since its early characterization in Drosophila an increasing number of conditions have been associated with competition, and mounting evidence demonstrates conservation of this process. We describe here the broad range of contexts that utilize cell competition, including tissue health, aging, and tumor development. We then delineate different models for the processes underlying the recognition and elimination of outcompeted cells.

Keywords: aging; cell competition; cell fitness; fitness fingerprints; mechanics; trophic theory; tumor.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Cell Death
  • Cell Survival
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Neurons / cytology