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Phys Biol. 2004 Dec;1(3-4):184-95.

The statistical mechanics of complex signaling networks: nerve growth factor signaling.

Author information

1
LASSP, Department of Physics, Cornell University, Clark Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.

Abstract

The inherent complexity of cellular signaling networks and their importance to a wide range of cellular functions necessitates the development of modeling methods that can be applied toward making predictions and highlighting the appropriate experiments to test our understanding of how these systems are designed and function. We use methods of statistical mechanics to extract useful predictions for complex cellular signaling networks. A key difficulty with signaling models is that, while significant effort is being made to experimentally measure the rate constants for individual steps in these networks, many of the parameters required to describe their behavior remain unknown or at best represent estimates. To establish the usefulness of our approach, we have applied our methods toward modeling the nerve growth factor (NGF)-induced differentiation of neuronal cells. In particular, we study the actions of NGF and mitogenic epidermal growth factor (EGF) in rat pheochromocytoma (PC12) cells. Through a network of intermediate signaling proteins, each of these growth factors stimulates extracellular regulated kinase (Erk) phosphorylation with distinct dynamical profiles. Using our modeling approach, we are able to predict the influence of specific signaling modules in determining the integrated cellular response to the two growth factors. Our methods also raise some interesting insights into the design and possible evolution of cellular systems, highlighting an inherent property of these systems that we call 'sloppiness.'

PMID:
16204838
DOI:
10.1088/1478-3967/1/3/006
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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