Characterizing the Impact of Communication on Cellular and Collective Behavior Using a Three-Dimensional Multiscale Cellular Model.

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Entropy (Basel)


washington; isb


Communication between cells enables the coordination that drives structural and functional complexity in biological systems. Both single and multicellular organisms have evolved diverse communication systems for a range of purposes, including synchronization of behavior, division of labor, and spatial organization. Synthetic systems are also increasingly being engineered to utilize cell-cell communication. While research has elucidated the form and function of cell-cell communication in many biological systems, our knowledge is still limited by the confounding effects of other biological phenomena at play and the bias of the evolutionary background. In this work, our goal is to push forward the context-free understanding of what impact cell-cell communication can have on cellular and population behavior to more fully understand the extent to which cell-cell communication systems can be utilized, modified, and engineered. We use an in silico model of 3D multiscale cellular populations, with dynamic intracellular networks interacting via diffusible signals. We focus on two key communication parameters: the effective interaction distance at which cells are able to interact and the receptor activation threshold. We found that cell-cell communication can be divided into six different forms along the parameter axes, three asocial and three social. We also show that cellular behavior, tissue composition, and tissue diversity are all highly sensitive to both the general form and specific parameters of communication even when the cellular network has not been biased towards that behavior.


Institute for Systems Biology