Noise Filtering and Prediction in Biological Signaling Networks
Information transmission in biological signaling circuits has often been described using the metaphor of a noise filter. Cellular systems need accurate real-time data about their environmental conditions, but the biochemical reaction networks that propagate, amplify, and process signals work with noisy representations of that data. Biology must implement strategies that not only filter the noise but also predict the current state of the environment based on information delayed due to the finite speed of chemical signaling. The idea of a biochemical noise filter is actually more than just a metaphor: we describe recent work that has made an explicit mathematical connection between signaling fidelity in cellular circuits and the classic theories of optimal noise filtering and prediction that began with Wiener, Kolmogorov, Shannon, and Bode. This theoretical framework provides a versatile tool, allowing us to derive analytical bounds on the maximum mutual information between the environmental signal and the real-time estimate constructed by the system. It helps us understand how the structure of a biological network, and the response times of its components, influences the accuracy of that estimate. The theory also provides insights into how evolution may have tuned enzyme kinetic parameters and populations to optimize information transfer.
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