First-passage time approach to controlling noise in the timing of intracellular events

Research Highlight

Perfect timing

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A mathematical model has offered counter-intuitive insights into how cells precisely control the timing of events to ensure that the complex, interlocking machinery of life operates smoothly.

Researchers at the City University of New York and the University of Delaware developed the model to analyze a timing mechanism in which a cellular event is triggered when the concentration of a protein reaches a certain level. The team investigated how feedback loops in the synthesis of a trigger protein would affect the precision of an event’s timing.

Unexpectedly, they found that negative feedback loops, which dampen fluctuations in protein synthesis, consistently caused the most variability in event timing. The timing mechanism was most stable when there was no feedback in the synthesis of long-lived proteins and positive feedback in the synthesis of short-lived proteins.

These results will help researchers better understand how timing can be precisely controlled in cells and other complex networks, such as ecosystems or chemical reactions.

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  1. PNAS 114,693-698 (2017). doi: 10.1073/pnas.1609012114
Institutions Authors Share
University of Delaware (UD), United States of America (USA)
The Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY Graduate Center), United States of America (USA)