PloS one

Spontaneous Cell Competition in Immortalized Mammalian Cell Lines.

PMID 26200654


Cell competition is a form of cell-cell interaction by which cells compare relative levels of fitness, resulting in the active elimination of less-fit cells, "losers," by more-fit cells, "winners." Here, we show that in three routinely-used mammalian cell lines - U2OS, 3T3, and MDCK cells - sub-clones arise stochastically that exhibit context-dependent competitive behavior. Specifically, cell death is elicited when winner and loser sub-clones are cultured together but not alone. Cell competition and elimination in these cell lines is caspase-dependent and requires cell-cell contact but does not require de novo RNA synthesis. Moreover, we show that the phenomenon involves differences in cellular metabolism. Hence, our study demonstrates that cell competition is a common feature of immortalized mammalian cells in vitro and implicates cellular metabolism as a mechanism by which cells sense relative levels of "fitness."