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Institute of Cell Biology Institut für Zellbiologie


Research group Moreno


Cancer, ageing, multicellularity and cell competition

Coexistence in crowded communities and with limited space is often not easy. Civic rules must be implemented in order to avoid extreme competitive conflicts and define appropriate social behaviors. Recent genetic research has revealed that those social problems also occur among stem cells and during development. My laboratory is interested in how cells form stable societies and how they identify dangerous or suboptimal neighbors and eliminate them. This phenomenon has been termed “cell competition” and we study it in communities of stem cells and during development in Drosophila and mice. Our interests include:

  • The role of cell competition to maximize stem cell fitness, delaying ageing and degeneration
  • Genetics of cell competition
  • Cell competition and cancer
  • Explore biomedical applications of cell competition
  • Evolution of multicellularity towards the creation of stable cell societies.

Key words:

Cancer, ageing, stem cells, genetics, cell competition, evolution, fitness


34. Levayer R, Hauert B and Moreno E. Cell mixing induced by myc is required for competitive tissue invasion and destruction. Nature (in press) doi:10.1038/nature14684

33. Moreno E, Fernandez-Marrero Y, Meyer P, Rhiner C. Brain regeneration in Drosophila involves comparison of neuronal fitness. Curr Biol. 2015 Mar 30;25(7):955-63. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2015.02.014. 

32. Merino MM, Rhiner C, Lopez-Gay JM, Buechel D, Hauert B and Moreno E. Elimination of unfit cells maintains tissue health and prolongs life span. Cell. 2015 Jan 29; 160(3): 461–476. doi:  10.1016/j.cell.2014.12.017

31. Moreno, E. and Rhiner, C. Darwin`s multicellularity: From neurotrophic theories and cell competition to fitness fingerprints. Current Opinion in Cell Biology, 2014. Doi: 10.1016/j.ceb.2014.06.011.

30. Zhang C, Li G, Casas-Tintó S, Lin N, Chung M, Moreno E, Moberg K and Zhou L. An Intergenic Regulatory Region Mediates Drosophila Myc -Induced Apoptosis and Blocks Tissue Hyperplasia. Oncogene. 2014 Jun 16. doi: 10.1038/onc.2014.160.

29. Moreno E. Cancer: Darwinian tumour suppression. Nature. 2014 May 22;509(7501):435-6. doi: 10.1038/nature13337. Epub 2014 May 14. (News and Views).

28. K Gupta, E Madan, M Sayyid, H Arias-Pulido, E Moreno, P Kuppusamy, R Gogna. Oxygen regulates molecular mechanisms of cancer progression and metastasis. Cancer and Metastasis Reviews, 1-33, 2013.

27. Merino, ML., Rhiner, C., Portela, M. and Moreno, E. "Fitness fingerprints" mediate physiological culling of unwanted neurons in Drosophila. Current Biology, Epub 2013 Jun 27.

26. Fernandez-Hernandez, I., Rhiner, C., and Moreno, E. (2013). Adult Neurogenesis in Drosophila. CELL reports, Jun 27;3(6):1857-65. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2013.05.034. Epub 2013 Jun 20.

25. Levayer, R. and Moreno, E. Mechanisms of cell competition: Themes and variations. Journal of Cell Biology (JCB), 2013 Mar 18;200(6):689-98. doi: 10.1083/jcb.201301051.

24. Moreno E. The "Out of Africa Tribe" (II): Paleolithic warriors with big canoes and protective weapons. Communicative and Integrative Biology. 2013 May 1;6(3):e24145. doi: 10.4161/cib.24145.

23. Lolo, F., Casas-Tinto S. and Moreno E. How winner cells cause the demise of loser cells. Bioessays, 2013 (AOP). DOI: 10.1002/bies.201200156

22. Lolo, F., Casas-Tinto S. and Moreno E. Cell competition timeline: winners kill losers, which are extruded and engulfed by hemocytes. Cell reports, 2 (2012) pp. 526-539. DOI: 10.1016/j.celrep.2012.08.012.

21. Moreno E. Design and Construction of ‘‘Synthetic Species’’. PLoS ONE (2012) 7(7): e39054. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0039054.
* PlosOne editor´s choice in Plos blogs. Featured in LabTimes and Greenwire. Selected as one of the “100 discoveries of the year 2012” by “Quarks and Co”.

20. Petrova E, López-Gay JM, Rhiner C, Moreno E. Flower-deficient mice have reduced susceptibility to skin papilloma formation. Dis Model Mech. 2012
Jul;5(4):553-61. Epub 2012 Feb 23.

19. Staal FJ et al. Stem cell self-renewal: lessons from bone marrow, gut and iPS toward clinical applications. Leukemia. 2011 Jul;25(7):1095-102. doi:10.1038/leu.2011.52. Epub 2011 Apr 29. Review. PubMed PMID: 21527933.

18. Petrova E, Soldini D and Moreno E. The expression of SPARC in human tumors is consistent with its role during cell competition. Communicative and Integrative Biology. Volume 4, Issue 2 March/April 2011, 171 - 174.

17. Casas-Tinto S, Torres M and Moreno E. The “Flower Code” and Cancer Development.
Clin Transl Oncol. 2011 Jan;13(1):5-9.

16. Moreno E. The society of our “out of Africa” ancestors (I): The migrant warriors that colonized the world. Communicative and Integrative Biology. Vol. 4, Issue 2   March/April 2011 163 - 170.

15. Portela M, Casas-Tinto S, Rhiner C, López-Gay JM, Domínguez O, Soldini D, Moreno E.
Drosophila SPARC is a self-protective signal expressed by loser cells during cell competition.DEV. CELL. 2010. Vol. 19, Issue Issue 4, pp. 562-573.

14. Rhiner C, López-Gay JM, Soldini D, Casas-Tinto S, Martín FA, Lombardía L, Moreno E. Flower Forms an Extracellular Code that Reveals the Fitness of a Cell to its Neighbors in Drosophila. DEV. CELL. Vol. 18, Issue 6, 985-998, 2010.

13. Ziv O, Suissa Y, Neuman H, Dinur T, Geuking P, Rhiner C, Portela M, Lolo F, Moreno E*, and Gerlitz O*.
dNAB co-regulator interacts with Brinker to eliminate cells with reduced Dpp signalling. DEVELOPMENT. 2009. 136: 1137-1145.* Co-corresponding authors.

12. Rhiner C, Díaz B, Portela M, Poyatos JF, Fernández-Ruiz I, López-Gay JM, Gerlitz O, Moreno E. Persistent competition among stem cells and their daughters in the Drosophila ovary germline niche. DEVELOPMENT. 2009. 136: 995-1006

11. Rhiner C, Moreno E. Super competition as a possible mechanism to pioneer pre-cancerous fields. CARCINOGENESIS. 2009 Jan 6. 30(5): 723-728.    

10. Gerlitz O, Wagner EF, Moreno E. When flies and mice develop cancer. Meeting on development and cancer. EMBO Rep. 2008 Aug;9(8):730-734.

9. Moreno E. Is cell competition relevant to cancer? NAT REV CANCER. FEB; 8(2):141-7, 2008

8. Soldini D*, Moreno E*, Martin V, Gratwohl A, Marone C, Mazzucchelli L. BM-derived cells randomly contribute to neoplastic and non-neoplastic epithelial tissues at low rates. BONE MARROW TRANSPLANT. 2008 Dec;42(11):749-55. * Equal contribution.

7. Diaz B, Moreno E. The competitive nature of cells. EXPERIMENTAL CELL RESEARCH. 306 (2): 317-322 JUN 10, 2005.

6. Martin FA, Perez-Garijo A, Moreno E, Morata G. The brinker gradient controls wing growth in Drosophila
DEVELOPMENT 131 (20): 4921-4930 OCT, 2004.

5. Moreno E, Basler K. dMyc transforms cells into super-competitors
CELL 117 (1): 117-129 APR 2, 2004.

4. Moreno E, Yan MH, Basler K.  Evolution of TNF signaling mechanisms: JNK-dependent apoptosis triggered by Eiger, the Drosophila homolog of the TNF superfamily
CURRENT BIOLOGY 12 (14): 1263-1268 JUL 23, 2002.

3. Moreno E, Basler K, Morata G. Cells compete for Decapentaplegic survival factor to prevent apoptosis in Drosophila wing development
NATURE 416 (6882): 755-759 APR 18, 2002.

2. Moreno E, Morata G. Caudal is the Hox gene that specifies the most posterior Drosophila segment
NATURE 400 (6747): 873-877 AUG 26, 1999.

1. Calleja M, Moreno E, Pelaz S, Morata G.
Visualization of gene expression in living adult Drosophila
SCIENCE 274 (5285): 252-255 OCT 11, 1996.

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Group leader

Prof. Dr. Eduardo Moreno

Phone: +41 (0)31 631 ...
Fax:     +41 (0)31 631 46 16




1999:Innogenetics-SEBBM Young Scientists Prize.

1999: Extraordinary Prize for the best thesis Universidad Autónoma Madrid.

2002: Brupbacher Foundation Young Investigator Prize, Zurich.

2002: CBM-UAM PIMP prize.

2007: ERC Young Investigator Award.

2011: Josef Steiner Cancer Research Award.

2012: ERC Proof of Concept Award

2014: ERC Consolidator Grant Award