Robustness in non-equilibrium adaptation and biological decision making

1 April 2016

Suri Vaikuntanathan
Department of Chemistry
University of Chicago


Biological systems constantly sense stimuli from the environment, process and convey this information robustly over large length and time scales, and adapt efficiently to changing conditions. Information processing and signal transduction in biological systems is accomplished by complex networks of interacting molecules. The fidelity of information processing by biochemical networks, which is crucial to the survival and well being of the organism, is surprising given that it occurs in conditions in which the influence of random thermal fluctuations is very high. Here we propose a general mechanism for robustness in biological networks. We show that non equilibrium fluxes in information processing biochemical networks can generically support protected modes that have a topological origin and resemble topologically protected boundary modes in mechanical and electronic systems. Our work provides the foundation for how biological systems can use non equilibrium fluctuations to achieve robust function.

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