What are the different, high-level, disjunct (mutually exclusive at one particular point in time) programs or pathways along which a eukaryotic animal cell can follow? Examples of programs would include growth, cell division, senescence and quiescence. Are there programs that differ between cell types?

Any I'm missing? If so, references much appreciated.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Are growth and division separable?: surely they are! Cells may change volume without change in number. Hyperthrophy vs hyperplasia $\endgroup$
    – nico
    Aug 31, 2012 at 7:15
  • $\begingroup$ Ok. Any thing else I've missed? $\endgroup$ Aug 31, 2012 at 16:22
  • $\begingroup$ I'd categorise differentiation as a subtype of division but apart from that seems pretty much complete to me. You may want to add migration to both. $\endgroup$
    – Armatus
    Aug 31, 2012 at 22:28
  • $\begingroup$ I agree. Updated question accordingly. $\endgroup$ Sep 1, 2012 at 21:06
  • $\begingroup$ Cells may also divide with no growth. This happens during early development. $\endgroup$
    – Superbest
    Sep 2, 2012 at 19:59

2 Answers 2


To see the width of your question, have a look at what the Gene Ontology considers a cellular process:


I don't think you can agree on what's high-level, so it's better to see them all, I think. Also, for completeness, there is a list with cell types which is admirably maintained:


  • $\begingroup$ I've revised my question to a search for disjunct, i.e. mutually exclusive (at one particular point in time) classes of program of roughly the same generality. I find GO is very poor on this: often there are terms that are siblings despite describing a much different granularity, e.g. cell cycle process and membrane docking are siblings. $\endgroup$ Sep 1, 2012 at 21:04
  • $\begingroup$ It's just a collection of terms used in the literature, together with associated genes/proteins. $\endgroup$
    – R Stephan
    Sep 2, 2012 at 7:32

I'm going to answer my own question with suggestions collected from the comments.

A multipotent stem cell:

  • Growth
    • Growth and clonal division
    • Growth, division and differentiation
  • Division and no growth

A differentiated cell:

  • Senescence (irreversible)
  • Programmed cell death
    • Apoptosis.
    • Autophagic cell death.
    • Necrotic cell death.
  • Quiescence (reversible)
  • Growth ==> Immortality (cancer cells)
    • Growth and division
    • Growth and no division (endocycles)1
  • Division and no growth

1: Norman Zielke, Kerry J. Kim, Vuong Tran, Shusaku T. Shibutani, Maria-Jose Bravo, Sabarish Nagarajan, Monique van Straaten, Brigitte Woods, George von Dassow, Carmen Rottig, Christian F. Lehner, Savraj Grewal, Robert J. Duronio, and Bruce A. Edgar: Control of Drosophila endocycles by E2F and CRL4Cdt2


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