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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Oct 9;104(41):16146-51. Epub 2007 Oct 3.

Kinetic insulation as an effective mechanism for achieving pathway specificity in intracellular signaling networks.

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  • 1Department of Physics, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA.


Intracellular signaling pathways that share common components often elicit distinct physiological responses. In most cases, the biochemical mechanisms responsible for this signal specificity remain poorly understood. Protein scaffolds and cross-inhibition have been proposed as strategies to prevent unwanted cross-talk. Here, we report a mechanism for signal specificity termed "kinetic insulation." In this approach signals are selectively transmitted through the appropriate pathway based on their temporal profile. In particular, we demonstrate how pathway architectures downstream of a common component can be designed to efficiently separate transient signals from signals that increase slowly over time. Furthermore, we demonstrate that upstream signaling proteins can generate the appropriate input to the common pathway component regardless of the temporal profile of the external stimulus. Our results suggest that multilevel signaling cascades may have evolved to modulate the temporal profile of pathway activity so that stimulus information can be efficiently encoded and transmitted while ensuring signal specificity.

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