Format

Send to

Choose Destination
Bioessays. 2016 Feb;38(2):172-80. doi: 10.1002/bies.201500124. Epub 2015 Dec 2.

Variation is function: Are single cell differences functionally important?: Testing the hypothesis that single cell variation is required for aggregate function.

Dueck H1, Eberwine J1,2,3, Kim J1,2,3,4,5.

Author information

1
Genomics and Computational Biology Graduate Group, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA.
2
Department of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA.
3
Penn Program in Single Cell Biology, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA.
4
Department of Biology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA.
5
Department of Computer and Information Science, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA.

Abstract

There is a growing appreciation of the extent of transcriptome variation across individual cells of the same cell type. While expression variation may be a byproduct of, for example, dynamic or homeostatic processes, here we consider whether single-cell molecular variation per se might be crucial for population-level function. Under this hypothesis, molecular variation indicates a diversity of hidden functional capacities within an ensemble of identical cells, and this functional diversity facilitates collective behavior that would be inaccessible to a homogenous population. In reviewing this topic, we explore possible functions that might be carried by a heterogeneous ensemble of cells; however, this question has proven difficult to test, both because methods to manipulate molecular variation are limited and because it is complicated to define, and measure, population-level function. We consider several possible methods to further pursue the hypothesis that variation is function through the use of comparative analysis and novel experimental techniques.

KEYWORDS:

bet-hedging; evolution of variation; fractional response; functional variation; single cell transcriptome; single cell variation

PMID:
26625861
PMCID:
PMC4738397
DOI:
10.1002/bies.201500124
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wiley Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center