Insights into collective cell behaviour from populations of coupled chemical oscillators
Biological systems such as yeast show coordinated activity driven by chemical communication between cells. Here, we show how experiments with coupled chemical oscillators can provide insights into collective behaviour in cellular systems. Two methods of coupling the oscillators are described: exchange of chemical species with the surrounding solution and computer-controlled illumination of a light-sensitive catalyst. The collective behaviour observed includes synchronisation, dynamical quorum sensing (a density dependent transition to population-wide oscillations), and chimera states, where oscillators spontaneously split into coherent and incoherent groups. At the core of the different types of behaviour lies an intracellular autocatalytic signal and an intercellular communication mechanism that influences the autocatalytic growth.