We determined the macroscopic limit for phase synchronization of cellular clocks in an artificial tissue created by a “big chamber” microfluidic device to be about 150,000 cells or less. The dimensions of the microfluidic chamber allowed us to calculate an upper limit on the radius of a hypothesized quorum sensing signal molecule of 13.05 nm using a diffusion approximation for signal travel within the device. The use of a second microwell microfluidic device allowed the refinement of the macroscopic limit to a cell density of 2166 cells per fixed area of the device for phase synchronization. The measurement of averages over single cell trajectories in the microwell device supported a deterministic quorum sensing model identified by ensemble methods for clock phase synchronization. A strong inference framework was used to test the communication mechanism in phase synchronization of quorum sensing versus cell-to-cell contact, suggesting support for quorum sensing. Further evidence came from showing phase synchronization was density-dependent.
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