Organizational requirements for multicellular autonomy: insights from a comparative case study

Biology and Philosophy 29 (6):851-884 (2014)
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In this paper we explore the organizational conditions underlying the emergence of organisms at the multicellular level. More specifically, we shall propose a general theoretical scheme according to which a multicellular organism is an ensemble of cells that effectively regulates its own development through collective mechanisms of control of cell differentiation and cell division processes. This theoretical result derives from the detailed study of the ontogenetic development of three multicellular systems and, in particular, of their corresponding cell-to-cell signaling networks. The case study supports our claim that a specific type of functional integration among the cells of a multicellular ensemble , is required for it to qualify as a proper organism. Finally, we argue why a multicellular system exhibiting this type of functionally differentiated and integrated developmental organization becomes a self-determining collective entity and, therefore, should be considered as a second-order autonomous system



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Author Profiles

Kepa Ruiz Mirazo
University of the Basque Country
Argyris Arnellos
University of the Basque Country