Modularity in signaling systems
Author(s)Vecchio, Domitilla Del
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Modularity is a property by which the behavior of a system does not change upon interconnection. It is crucial for understanding the behavior of a complex system from the behavior of the composing subsystems. Whether modularity holds in biology is an intriguing and largely debated question. In this paper, we discuss this question taking a control system theory view and focusing on signaling systems. In particular, we argue that, despite signaling systems being constituted of structural modules, such as covalent modification cycles, modularity does not hold in general. As in any engineering system, impedance-like effects, called retroactivity, appear at interconnections and alter the behavior of connected modules. We further argue that while signaling systems have evolved sophisticated ways to counter-act retroactivity and enforce modularity, retroactivity may also be exploited to finely control the information processing of signaling pathways. Testable predictions and experimental evidence are discussed with their implications.
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Mechanical Engineering
Vecchio, Domitilla Del. “Modularity in Signaling Systems.” Physical Biology 9.4 (2012): 045008.
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