- The process by which a cell responds to substances outside the cell through signaling molecules found on the surface of and inside the cell. Most molecules that lead to cell signaling are chemical substances, such as hormones, neurotransmitters, and growth factors, that bind to a specific protein receptor (signaling molecule) on or in a cell. The signals are then passed from one molecule to another inside the cell, which results in a specific cell response, such as cell division or cell death. Cell signaling is important for cells to grow and work normally. Cells that have abnormal signaling molecules may become cancer cells. Also called signal transduction.