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Accurate information transmission through dynamic biochemical signaling networks

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Science  12 Dec 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6215, pp. 1370-1373
DOI: 10.1126/science.1254933

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Abstract

Stochasticity inherent to biochemical reactions (intrinsic noise) and variability in cellular states (extrinsic noise) degrade information transmitted through signaling networks. We analyzed the ability of temporal signal modulation—that is, dynamics—to reduce noise-induced information loss. In the extracellular signal–regulated kinase (ERK), calcium (Ca2+), and nuclear factor kappa-B (NF-κB) pathways, response dynamics resulted in significantly greater information transmission capacities compared to nondynamic responses. Theoretical analysis demonstrated that signaling dynamics has a key role in overcoming extrinsic noise. Experimental measurements of information transmission in the ERK network under varying signal-to-noise levels confirmed our predictions and showed that signaling dynamics mitigate, and can potentially eliminate, extrinsic noise–induced information loss. By curbing the information-degrading effects of cell-to-cell variability, dynamic responses substantially increase the accuracy of biochemical signaling networks.

Dynamic signals enhance information transfer

Cells need to process information about their external environment reliably to survive. However, variation, or noise, in biochemical reactions, or in the states of individual cells, make it hard for a cell to detect concentration, rather than just the presence or absence of an activating ligand. Selimkhanov et al. show that cellular signaling circuits get around this problem by continually monitoring signals over time. Such dynamic responses in cultured human cells more effectively distinguish signals from noise and thus avoid loss of information transmitted to the cell from external signals.

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