Cell-competitive interactions are widespread in nature and determine the outcome of a vast variety of biological processes. A particular class of competitive interactions takes place when alterations in intrinsic cellular properties are sensed nonautonomously by comparison between neighboring cells, resulting in the selective elimination of one cell population. This type of cell competition was first described four decades ago in developing epithelia of Drosophila. In the last 15 years, further molecular and cellular analyses have provided essential knowledge about the mechanisms, universality, and physiological relevance of cell competition. The two main phenomena triggering cell competition are alterations in cellular metabolic status and alterations in epithelial apico-basal polarity, while other reported pathways are less characterized. Cell competition plays essential roles in quality control, homeostasis, and repair of developing and adult tissues, and depending on the context, it may function as a tumor-suppressing or tumor-promoting mechanism.
Keywords: apoptosis; cancer; cell fitness; proliferation; regeneration; tissue quality control.