Signal Transduction

Testing a cell signaling circuit

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Science  08 Jan 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6269, pp. 135-136
DOI: 10.1126/science.351.6269.135-f

It remains a challenge to understand how a limited number of signaling mechanisms encode a broad range of cellular responses. Ryu et al. explored signaling by the mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway activated by various growth factors in single PC-12 rat pheochromocytoma cells. As Blüthgen explains in a commentary, the authors tested the circuit much as an electrical engineer might test an electrical circuit. They compared effects of pulses or sustained doses of growth factor. Sustained growth factor stimulus caused a heterogeneous response of single cells—some transiently and some sustaining pathway activation. Mathematical modeling and evaluation of pulsed growth factor stimulation in cells showed that different frequencies of stimulation enabled the same growth factor to cause different cell fate decisions.

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