What is it about?

In this study, we successfully mapped the mechanism behind cellular communication in the metabolic process, using small culture chambers that allow the control of the environment around the cells. The chosen model organism was yeast, since these cells are similar to human cells, and our focus is on glycolytic oscillations – a series of chemical reactions during metabolism where the concentration of substances can pulse or oscillate. The study shows how cells that initially oscillated independent of each other shifted to being more synchronized, creating partially synchronized populations of cells. One of the unique things with this study is that we have been able to study individual cells instead of simply entire cell populations and in doing so, to follow, both spatially and temporally, how the cells transition from their individual behaviour to coordinating with their neighbours.

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Why is it important?

Knowledge on how cells communicate is an important key to understanding many biological systems and diseases. This knowledge can be applied in other biological systems and more complex cells where coordinated cell behaviour plays an important role, e.g. in heart muscle cells and in pancreatic cells. Results obtained using this unique toolbox of methods to map the mechanism behind cellular communication, can potentially improve understanding of the underlying mechanism behind type 2 diabetes.


Human communication is important, but communication between the cells in our bodies is just as vital. The processes where cells synchronize and coordinate their behaviour is required for an organism to function and for human organs to be able to perform their functions. How do cells transit from acting as individuals to acting as a community? We need to better understand this complex and difficult-to-study behaviour and this brings one missing piece to help solving the puzzle. The study is a collaboration between eight researchers at Swedish and international universities, and the interdisciplinary collaboration has been fundamental in studying the complex behaviour of cells from multiple perspectives.

Caroline Beck Adiels
University of Gothenburg

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Intercellular communication induces glycolytic synchronization waves between individually oscillating cells, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, February 2021, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2010075118.
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