A theoretical model is presented for early evolutionary cell sorting within cellular aggregates. The model involves an energy-saving mechanism and principles of collective self-organization analogous to those observed in bicycle pelotons (groups of cyclists). The theoretical framework is applied to slime-mold slugs (Dictyostelium discoideum) and incorporated into a computer simulation which demonstrates principally the sorting of cells between the anterior and posterior slug regions. The simulation relies on an existing simulation of bicycle peloton dynamics which is modified to incorporate a limited range of cell metabolic capacities among heterogeneous cells, along with a tunable energy-expenditure parameter, referred to as an “output-level” or “starvation-level” to reflect diminishing energetic supply. Proto-cellular dynamics are modeled for three output phases: “active”, “suffering”, and “dying or dead.” Adjusting the starvation parameter causes cell differentiation and sorting into sub-groups within the cellular aggregate. Tuning of the starvation parameter demonstrates how weak or expired cells shuffle backward within the cellular aggregate.
Cell pelotons: A model of early evolutionary cell sorting, with application to slime mold Dictyostelium discoideum
Journal of Theoretical Biology
Volume 469, 21 May 2019, Pages 75-95