The following article refers to contact inhibition of cell division in epithelial cells, specifically MDCK cells: Collective and single cell behavior in epithelial contact inhibition.

In their review of the literature, there are a number of possible signalling pathways implicated in contact inhibition of cell division. These pathways are outlined in the following quotes:

It is widely accepted that contact inhibition requires establishment of E-cadherin-mediated cell-cell contacts and subsequent maturation of the adherens junctions (AJs) that link E-cadherin and F-actin in a synapse-like complex involving numerous other proteins

One possible pathway involves β-catenin, a mediator of Wnt signalling, that, in addition to its function as a transcriptional cofactor, is associated with the AJs at the cell surface

A contact inhibition role has been reported for NF2/Merlin, a tumor suppressor gene that encodes a membrane-cytoskeletal scaffolding protein, which most likely acts via the Hippo kinase pathway, controlling nuclear localization of the transcriptional activator YAP—itself a known regulator of cell proliferation.

Contact inhibition is known to involve the MAPK pathway, which, in turn, promotes cell cycle entry by regulating the expression of cyclinD1. Also implicated are Nectins—a family of cell adhesion molecules that are involved, together with integrins and other proteins, in the regulation of cell motility and proliferation. Yet, this accumulated knowledge falls far short of a comprehensive picture of contact inhibition.

In the article, the findings were as follows:

Our findings show that contact between cells is not sufficient for inhibition of mitosis in MDCK cells. Instead, inhibition of cell proliferation is a consequence of mechanical constraint that causes successive cell divisions to reduce cell area.

Where, in the discussion, they note the following:

Our measurements also suggest that inhibition of cell division is a distinct single cell state rather than a global state induced by cell-cell signalling across the layer, as illustrated in Fig. 4E. In fact, confluent MDCK cell cultures with an average cell density corresponding to the morphological transition are often sufficiently heterogeneous in local cell density that highly motile cells and completely arrested cells coexist in the same colony. Thus contact inhibition is a local phenomenon...

Published later, the article Spatial constraints control cell proliferation in tissues showed that reducing the amount of space in a tissue prevented entry into S-phase. Actually stretching the tissue quickly reactivated the cell cycle, and compression leads quickly to arrest. More so, they found that cells had no memory of past constraint, and were able to suggest a model of growth in relation to the spatial constraint.

I'm editing my question because the way I posted it initially, to me, was unanswerable. Being said, I suspect that at this point cell volume and extracellular contacts are synergistic. This is probably going to need two separate questions, but:

1) How does the mitotic entry machinery roughly respond to cell volume? I'm currently reading into Cdc25/Wee1 regulation in addition to some stuff about internal fluidics that are influenced by water, ion channels, etc. but I still don't fully understand.

2) What's a relatively straightforward downstream pathway (core elements), starting at the adherens junctions, that illustrates how cell-cell signalling gets the STOP signal to the mitotic entry machinery (based on what we know)? This might require some much more in-depth knowledge about the field, however, but articles with some good figures are appreciated, too.

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    $\begingroup$ As far as I know our knowledge is incomplete. We understand some pathways involved (notably MAPK) but don't really understand the interactions between pathways. As an example the AMPK and MAPK/ERK pathways share common downstream molecules and have some positive/negative feedback loops which are hard to model (I know I tried to model the ERK one) as we don't know all the involved players and the interactions between them. As an example in the MAPK/ERK pathway MEK can self-dimerize which was discovered late last year and actually this provokes a buffering effect on the response. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 1:38
  • $\begingroup$ Agree that we don't really know. I think that you might gain some perspective by looking at related pathways, e.g. effect of mechanical forces on mitotic spindle orientation: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4169662. I believe there is a lot of work in Drosophila on this subject, cursory googling suggests that preferential elongation along a particular tissue axis is mediated by mechanical forces: journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/…, using the wing as a model. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 26, 2017 at 18:48

1 Answer 1


How does the mitotic entry machinery roughly respond to cell volume?

This is a broad question but luckily there is one article that addresses this precise question in detail. However, it is very likely that more discoveries are made on this topic in future.

Neurohr et al. (2019) have extensively studied the effect of cell volume on mitotic re-entry and cell cycle progression. They used Saccharamyces cerevesiae with temperature sensitive alleles of CDC28 to arrest the cells in G1 phase. At this stage high glucose concentration (2%) led to increase in cell volume compared to that of starved (0.1% glucose) or protein synthesis inhibited (2% glucose + cycloheximide) cells. Using this model they find that cytoplasmic dilution causes impairment of transcriptional regulation during cell cycle progression. This is because the transcription factors do not scale with cell size.

Read the paper for more details.

What's a relatively straightforward downstream pathway (core elements), starting at the adherens junctions, that illustrates how cell-cell signalling gets the STOP signal to the mitotic entry machinery?

This is again a broad question if you expect all details. However, google scholar search on "contact inhibition pathway" suggests that the main downstream pathway is the Hippo signalling pathway.

Top hits on this topic:

  • $\begingroup$ Huuuuh I'll admit this question was really broad at the time but that first article, well one I've become so busy it dropped off my radar, but I also didn't expect those conclusions either. I will need to research the latter half better, but thanks for a point in the right direction! $\endgroup$
    – CKM
    Commented Jul 3, 2019 at 20:58

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