Clonal dominance arises when the descendants (clones) of one or a few founder cells contribute disproportionally to the final structure during collective growth1–8. In contexts such as bacterial growth, tumorigenesis and stem cell reprogramming2–4, this phenomenon is often attributed to pre-existing propensities for dominance, whereas in stem cell homeostasis, neutral drift dynamics are invoked5,6. The mechanistic origin of clonal dominance during development, where it is increasingly documented1,6–8, is less understood. Here, we investigate this phenomenon in the Drosophila melanogaster follicle epithelium, a system in which the joint growth dynamics of cell lineage trees can be reconstructed. We demonstrate that clonal dominance can emerge spontaneously, in the absence of pre-existing biases, as a collective property of evolving excitable networks through coupling of divisions among connected cells. Similar mechanisms have been identified in forest fires and evolving opinion networks9–11; we show that the spatial coupling of excitable units explains a critical feature of the development of the organism, with implications for tissue organization and dynamics1,12,13.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- General Physics and Astronomy