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Open Access Highly Accessed Debate

Control and maintenance of mammalian cell size

Stephen Cooper

Author affiliations

Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor MI 48109-0620, USA

Citation and License

BMC Cell Biology 2004, 5:35  doi:10.1186/1471-2121-5-35

Published: 29 September 2004



Conlon and Raff propose that mammalian cells grow linearly during the division cycle. According to Conlon and Raff, cells growing linearly do not need a size checkpoint to maintain a constant distribution of cell sizes. If there is no cell-size-control system, then exponential growth is not allowed, as exponential growth, according to Conlon and Raff, would require a cell-size-control system.


A reexamination of the model and experiments of Conlon and Raff indicates that exponential growth is fully compatible with cell size maintenance, and that mammalian cells have a system to regulate and maintain cell size that is related to the process of S-phase initiation. Mammalian cell size control and its relationship to growth rate–faster growing cells are larger than slower growing cells–is explained by the initiation of S phase occurring at a relatively constant cell size coupled with relatively invariant S- and G2-phase times as interdivision time varies.


This view of the mammalian cell cycle, the continuum model, explains the mass growth pattern during the division cycle, size maintenance, size determination, and the kinetics of cell-size change following a shift-up from slow to rapid growth.

cell cycle; cell size; exponential growth; linear growth; shift-up; continuum model