Bioelectric signaling: Reprogrammable circuits underlying embryogenesis, regeneration, and cancer

Cell. 2021 Apr 15;184(8):1971-1989. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2021.02.034. Epub 2021 Apr 6.


How are individual cell behaviors coordinated toward invariant large-scale anatomical outcomes in development and regeneration despite unpredictable perturbations? Endogenous distributions of membrane potentials, produced by ion channels and gap junctions, are present across all tissues. These bioelectrical networks process morphogenetic information that controls gene expression, enabling cell collectives to make decisions about large-scale growth and form. Recent progress in the analysis and computational modeling of developmental bioelectric circuits and channelopathies reveals how cellular collectives cooperate toward organ-level structural order. These advances suggest a roadmap for exploiting bioelectric signaling for interventions addressing developmental disorders, regenerative medicine, cancer reprogramming, and synthetic bioengineering.

Keywords: bioelectricity; development; electroceuticals; gap junction; ion channel; morphogenesis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Electrophysiological Phenomena
  • Embryonic Development / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Ion Channels / metabolism
  • Models, Biological*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Regenerative Medicine
  • Signal Transduction*


  • Ion Channels