Over many years evidence has accumulated that plants and animals can regulate growth with reference to overall size rather than cell number. Thus, organs and organisms grow until they reach their characteristic size and shape and then they stop - they can even compensate for experimental manipulations that change, over several fold, cell number or average cell size. If the cell size is altered, the organism responds with a change in cell number and vice versa. We look at the Drosophila wing in more detail: here, both extracellular and intracellular regulators have been identified that link cell growth, division and cell survival to final organ size. We discuss a hypothesis that the local steepness of a morphogen gradient is a measure of length in one axis, a measure that is used to determine whether there will be net growth or not.

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