Synchronised oscillations in growing cell populations are explained by demographic noise

Kit Yates, Enrico Gavagnin, Tim Rogers, Matthew Simpson, Nikolas Haass, Sean Vittadello, Gency Gunasingh

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Understanding synchrony in growing populations is important for applications as diverse as epidemiology and cancer treatment. Recent experiments employing fluorescent reporters in melanoma cell lines have uncovered growing subpopulations exhibiting sustained oscillations, with nearby cells appearing to synchronise their cycles. In this study we demonstrate that the
behaviour observed is consistent with long-lasting transient phenomenon initiated, and amplified by the finite-sample effects and demographic noise. We present a novel mathematical analysis of a multi-stage model of cell growth which accurately reproduces the synchronised oscillations. As part of the analysis, we elucidate the transient and asymptotic phases of the
dynamics and derive an analytical formula to quantify the effect of demographic noise in the appearance of the oscillations. The implications of these findings are broad, such as providing insight into experimental protocols that are used to study the growth of asynchronous populations and, in particular, those investigations relating to anti-cancer drug discovery.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBiophysical Journal
Publication statusPublished - 20 Feb 2021


  • cellular population dynamics
  • cell-cycle
  • demographic noise
  • finite-sample effects


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