AAT Bioquest

What are the factors that affect cell differentiation?

Posted November 30, 2023


There are various factors which affect cell differentiation. One factor is the environment of the organism, which can cause cell differentiation to alter, halt, or interfere with its mechanism. As an example, changes in temperature may affect how organisms grow. Higher temperatures induce cells to grow and differentiate faster, while lower temperatures slow down or halt the growth of organisms. Drugs may also play a role in interfering with cell differentiation, as they can inhibit one of the steps for unrestricted tumor growth and halt the activity of the relevant genes. Injuries may also affect gene expression, determining the specific cells required for repairing cellular damage. Viruses and bacteria also have the ability to impact cell differentiation. For example, the virus rubella can alter the way cells differentiate in the growing fetus, potentially leading to birth abnormalities. Harmful chemicals may also affect cell differentiation. Compounds which interfere with or block receptor sites may halt signaling processes and impact cell differentiation. A lack of nutrients is another factor affecting cell differentiation, as without the proper amount of nutrients a cell cannot make protein and thus will not differentiate. The oxygen supply is another factor, as changes in its concentration can affect cell differentiation. Thus, it is important for oxygen to consistently remain at physiologically normal levels.

Another factor which affects cell differentiation is the genetic makeup of the cell. Mutations which cause the DNA to be dysfunctional and interfere with the transcription of genes can in turn disrupt the differentiation process. Signaling molecules such as hormones and growth factors also play a role in cell differentiation. For example, thyroid hormones binding to nuclear receptors play a role in modulating cellular differentiation via regulating different signaling pathways or through transcriptional regulation. This leads to the activation or inhibition of different genes in distinct types of cells. Transcription factors also play a role in influencing the pathway stem cells choose as they differentiate. For example, goblet and intestinal absorptive cells originate from the same cells, but different transcription factors induce them to form into different specialized cells.  

Additional resources

Cell Differentiation and Tissue

Cell Proliferation Assays

Bucculite™ Flow Cytometric XdU Cell Proliferation Assay Kit *Blue Laser-Comptatible*