Mom Knows Best

In deciding the timing of dividing, mother cells smartly sense their environment and direct their daughters on the right move.

Multicellular organisms have 2 types of cells: a relative few for reproduction (germline) and the rest somatic. Ordinary cells divide to grow or replace aging cells.

As being a cellular part of a larger organism is a team effort, somatic cells are gregarious. Cells constantly sense their environment: listening to how others are doing and telling others of their own status.

The messages which tell cells that it is a good or bad time to divide take molecular form as mitogens. During mitosis, a mother cell divides into 2 daughter cells.

The mother cell does not make the decision to divide based upon her own experience. Instead, she follows the guidance provided by her mother when she was born. “All the sensing of the environment is actually happening in the mother cell cycle. Cells store memory, integrate past history,” reports American biochemist Sabrina Spencer.


Mingwei Min et al, “Temporal integration of mitogen history in mother cells controls proliferation of daughter cells,” Science (2 April 2020).

To divide or not to divide? The mother cell may decide,” ScienceDaily (3 April 2020).