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The Influence of Cellular Characteristics on the Evolution of Shape Homeostasis

Journal article
Authors Philip Gerlee
David Basanta
Alexander R.A. Anderson
Published in Artificial Life
Volume 23
Issue 3
Pages 424-448
ISSN 1064-5462
Publication year 2017
Published at Department of Mathematical Sciences
Pages 424-448
Language en
Keywords Development, Evolution, Shape homeostasis, Target shape
Subject categories Cell and molecular biology


© 2017 Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The importance of individual cells in a developing multicellular organism is well known, but precisely how the individual cellular characteristics of those cells collectively drive the emergence of robust, homeostatic structures is less well understood. For example, cell communication via a diffusible factor allows for information to travel across large distances within the population, and cell polarization makes it possible to form structures with a particular orientation, but how do these processes interact to produce a more robust and regulated structure? In this study we investigate the ability of cells with different cellular characteristics to grow and maintain homeostatic structures. We do this in the context of an individual-based model where cell behavior is driven by an intracellular network that determines the cell phenotype. More precisely, we investigated evolution with 96 different permutations of our model, where cell motility, cell death, long-range growth factor (LGF), short-range growth factor (SGF), and cell polarization were either present or absent. The results show that LGF has the largest positive influence on the fitness of the evolved solutions. SGF and polarization also contribute, but all other capabilities essentially increase the search space, effectively making it more difficult to achieve a solution. By perturbing the evolved solutions, we found that they are highly robust to both mutations and wounding. In addition, we observed that by evolving solutions in more unstable environments they produce structures that were more robust and adaptive. In conclusion, our results suggest that robust collective behavior is most likely to evolve when cells are endowed with long-range communication, cell polarisation, and selection pressure from an unstable environment.

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