The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 59: 79 - 86 (2015)

Vol 59, Issue 1-2-3

Special Issue: Cell Death in Development & Tumors

Cell competition, apoptosis and tumour development

Published: 2 September 2015

Ginés Morata* and Luna Ballesteros-Arias

Centro de Biología Molecular Severo Ochoa, Madrid, Spain


The phenomenon of cell competition is an interactive process originally discovered in the imaginal discs of Drosophila; it is a developmental mechanism that identifies and eliminates cells that are weaker than their neighbours or have features that make them different or not well adapted to their surroundings. It appears to be an important homeostatic mechanism to contribute to the general fitness of developing tissues. Here we discuss some of the basic features of cell competition and then focus on results indicating that cell competition is responsible for the removal of malignant or aberrant cells that may appear during development, although in certain circumstances it can revert its role to promote tumour growth. We also consider several recent studies that indicate that cell competition also occurs in vertebrates where it performs similar functions.


cell competition, tumour development, apoptosis, Drosophila, vertebrates

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