A cell-based model for size control in the multiple fission alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii

Dianyi Liu, César Augusto Vargas-García, Abhyudai Singh, James Umen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Understanding how population-size homeostasis emerges from stochastic individual cell behaviors remains a challenge in biology.1,2,3,4,5,6,7 The unicellular green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii (Chlamydomonas) proliferates using a multiple fission cell cycle, where a prolonged G1 phase is followed by n rounds of alternating division cycles (S/M) to produce 2n daughters. A “Commitment” sizer in mid-G1 phase ensures sufficient cell growth before completing the cell cycle. A mitotic sizer couples mother-cell size to division number (n) such that daughter size distributions are uniform regardless of mother size distributions. Although daughter size distributions were highly robust to altered growth conditions, ∼40% of daughter cells fell outside of the 2-fold range expected from a “perfect” multiple fission sizer.7,8 A simple intuitive power law model with stochastic noise failed to reproduce individual division behaviors of tracked single cells. Through additional iterative modeling, we identified an alternative modified threshold (MT) model, where cells need to cross a threshold greater than 2-fold their median starting size to become division-competent (i.e., Committed), after which their behaviors followed a power law model. The Commitment versus mitotic size threshold uncoupling in the MT model was likely a key pre-adaptation in the evolution of volvocine algal multicellularity. A similar experimental approach was used in size mutants mat3/rbr and dp1 that are, respectively, missing repressor or activator subunits of the retinoblastoma tumor suppressor complex (RBC). Both mutants showed altered relationships between Commitment and mitotic sizer, suggesting that RBC functions to decouple the two sizers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5215-5224.e5
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number23
StatePublished - Dec 4 2023


  • cell cycle
  • cell imaging
  • quantitative modeling
  • retinoblastoma
  • stochastic behavior
  • volvocine algae


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