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Nature. 1997 Jun 26;387(6636):913-7.

Robustness in simple biochemical networks.

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Department of Physics, Princeton University, New Jersey 08544, USA.


Cells use complex networks of interacting molecular components to transfer and process information. These "computational devices of living cells" are responsible for many important cellular processes, including cell-cycle regulation and signal transduction. Here we address the issue of the sensitivity of the networks to variations in their biochemical parameters. We propose a mechanism for robust adaptation in simple signal transduction networks. We show that this mechanism applies in particular to bacterial chemotaxis. This is demonstrated within a quantitative model which explains, in a unified way, many aspects of chemotaxis, including proper responses to chemical gradients. The adaptation property is a consequence of the network's connectivity and does not require the 'fine-tuning' of parameters. We argue that the key properties of biochemical networks should be robust in order to ensure their proper functioning.

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