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Abstract

Noise biology focuses on the sources, processing, and biological consequences of the inherent stochastic fluctuations in molecular transitions or interactions that control cellular behavior. These fluctuations are especially pronounced in small systems where the magnitudes of the fluctuations approach or exceed the mean value of the molecular population. Noise biology is an essential component of nanomedicine where the communication of information is across a boundary that separates small synthetic and biological systems that are bound by their size to reside in environments of large fluctuations. Here we review the fundamentals of the computational, analytical, and experimental approaches to noise biology. We review results that show that the competition between the benefits of low noise and those of low population has resulted in the evolution of genetic system architectures that produce an uneven distribution of stochasticity across the molecular components of cells and, in some cases, use noise to drive biological function. We review the exact and approximate approaches to gene circuit noise analysis and simulation, and review many of the key experimental results obtained using flow cytometry and time-lapse fluorescent microscopy. In addition, we consider the probative value of noise with a discussion of using measured noise properties to elucidate the structure and function of the underlying gene circuit. We conclude with a discussion of the frontiers of and significant future challenges for noise biology. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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