Dynamical and integrative cell signaling: challenges for the new biology


  • Andre Levchenko

    1. The Whitaker Institute for Biomedical Engineering, The Johns Hopkins University, 208C Clark Hall, 3400 North Charles Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21218; telephone: 410-516-5584; fax: 410-516-6240
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Years of careful experimental analysis have revealed that signaling molecules are organized into complex networks of biochemical reactions exquisitely regulated in time and space to provide a cell with high-fidelity information about an extremely noisy and volatile environment. A new view of signaling networks as systems consisting of multiple complex elements interacting in a multifarious fashion is emerging, a view that conflicts with the single-gene or protein-centric approach common in biological research. The postgenomic era has brought about a different, network-centric methodology of analysis, suddenly forcing researchers toward the opposite extreme of complexity, where the networks being explored are, to a certain extent, intractable and uninterpretable. Both the cartoons of simple pathways and the very large “hair-ball” diagrams of large intracellular networks are also representations of static worlds, superficially devoid of dynamics and chemistry. These representations are often viewed as being analogous to stably linked computer and neural networks rather than dynamically changing networks of chemical interactions, where the notions of concentration, compartmentalization, and diffusion may be the primary determinants of connectivity. Arguably, the systems biology approach, relying on computational modeling coupled with various experimental techniques and methodologies, will be an essential component of analysis of the behavior of signal transduction pathways. Combining the dynamical view of rapidly evolving responses and the structural view arising from high-throughput analyses of the interacting species will be the best approach toward efforts toward greater understanding of intracellular signaling processes. © 2003 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.