Individual cells are constantly making important decisions, and it has now become clear that they are doing so much more autonomously than previously thought.
According to the team, cells use multimodal perception to take into account external signals and information from inside the cell, for example, the amount of cell organelles.
In certain situations, internal signals can suppress external incentives: for example, in tumors where cells are resistant to different treatments.
This drug resistance is a serious problem in the fight against cancer, and it can be solved by taking into account the contextual signals that individual cells experience, and then changing them.
To verify whether cells were making decisions according to contextual, multimodal perceptions, as humans do, researchers had to simultaneously measure the activity of several signal nodes — external cell sensors — as well as several potential signals from inside the cell, such as the local environment and the number of cellular organelles.
All of this was analysed in both individual cells and in millions of cells, using a 4i method that allows visualization and determination of the number of proteins that may be up to 80.
Researchers found that when the activity of individual sensors changed, internal signals also changed; for example, large amounts of mitochondrium affect how the individual cell perceives external incentives.
When researchers assessed the decision of one cell, for example, to reproduce or to remain in peace, the decision depended heavily on its internal state.
So individual cells are able to make appropriate context-dependent decisions, and they are smarter than previously thought, and they sum up the authors.