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Cellular Signaling beyond the Wiener–Kolmogorov Limit

Cite this: J. Phys. Chem. B 2021, 125, 46, 12698–12711
Publication Date (Web):November 10, 2021
https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.jpcb.1c07894
Copyright © 2021 American Chemical Society

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    Abstract

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    Accurate propagation of signals through stochastic biochemical networks involves significant expenditure of cellular resources. The same is true for regulatory mechanisms that suppress fluctuations in biomolecular populations. Wiener–Kolmogorov (WK) optimal noise filter theory, originally developed for engineering problems, has recently emerged as a valuable tool to estimate the maximum performance achievable in such biological systems for a given metabolic cost. However, WK theory has one assumption that potentially limits its applicability: it relies on a linear, continuum description of the reaction dynamics. Despite this, up to now no explicit test of the theory in nonlinear signaling systems with discrete molecular populations has ever seen performance beyond the WK bound. Here we report the first direct evidence of the bound being broken. To accomplish this, we develop a theoretical framework for multilevel signaling cascades, including the possibility of feedback interactions between input and output. In the absence of feedback, we introduce an analytical approach that allows us to calculate exact moments of the stationary distribution for a nonlinear system. With feedback, we rely on numerical solutions of the system’s master equation. The results show WK violations in two common network motifs: a two-level signaling cascade and a negative feedback loop. However, the magnitude of the violation is biologically negligible, particularly in the parameter regime where signaling is most effective. The results demonstrate that while WK theory does not provide strict bounds, its predictions for performance limits are excellent approximations, even for nonlinear systems.

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