Biochemical FM radio receivers

7 Dec 2012

Sahand Jamal Rahi
Center for Studies in Physics and Biology
The Rockefeller University


In recent years many biochemical signals have been found to be transmitted as trains of pulses. Although it is thought that the signal dynamics encodes the transmitted message, how the information is represented has yet to be elucidated in many cases. Adaptive circuits, which are ubiquitous in biology and which can behave as bandpass filters ("FM radio receivers"), are particularly simple decoders of dynamical signals. To elucidate the relationship between topology and function for these, we investigate the response of elementary adaptive circuits to periodic stimulation. We compute input-output functions (period and amount of maximal output versus pulse width) that are easily accessible experimentally. Characteristic signatures for the different circuit types manifest themselves that are independent of kinetic or cooperativity parameters. These indicators also reveal the type of circuit topology at the core of various detailed published models. Thus, our calculations give insight into mechanisms that are difficult to reveal by molecular biology techniques.

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