Emergence of collective oscillations in adaptive cells

Shou Wen Wang*, Lei Han Tang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Collective oscillations of cells in a population appear under diverse biological contexts. Here, we establish a set of common principles by categorising the response of individual cells against a time-varying signal. A positive intracellular signal relay of sufficient gain from participating cells is required to sustain the oscillations, together with phase matching. The two conditions yield quantitative predictions for the onset cell density and frequency in terms of measured single-cell and signal response functions. Through mathematical constructions, we show that cells that adapt to a constant stimulus fulfil the phase requirement by developing a leading phase in an active frequency window that enables cell-to-signal energy flow. Analysis of dynamical quorum sensing in several cellular systems with increasing biological complexity reaffirms the pivotal role of adaptation in powering oscillations in an otherwise dissipative cell-to-cell communication channel. The physical conditions identified also apply to synthetic oscillatory systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5613
Number of pages10
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 9 Dec 2019

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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