PerspectiveSystems Biology

How Information Theory Handles Cell Signaling and Uncertainty

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Science  19 Oct 2012:
Vol. 338, Issue 6105, pp. 334-335
DOI: 10.1126/science.1227946

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Intracellular biochemical networks have traditionally been studied by stimulating populations of genetically identical cells and measuring the aggregate response. However, such population-based measurements may obscure the idiosyncrasies of individual cells and therefore suggest deceptively precise input-output relationships. Consequently, signaling pathways have been viewed as the finely tuned circuitry that programs the cell to behave in a predefined manner (1). Detailed studies of cellular biochemistry at the single-cell level now show that cells responding en masse may have quite varied behaviors when examined individually (2), raising the question of how precisely signaling pathways can control a cell's actions (3).