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IET Syst Biol. 2008 Jul;2(4):173-83. doi: 10.1049/iet-syb:20070066.

Computational modelling reveals feedback redundancy within the epidermal growth factor receptor/extracellular-signal regulated kinase signalling pathway.

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Bioinformatics Research Centre, Department of Computing Science, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK.


The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) activated extracellular-signal regulated kinase (ERK) pathway is a central cell signalling pathway that mediates many biological responses including cell proliferation, transformation, survival and motility. Deregulation of the pathway either through mutation of components or overexpression of EGFRs is associated with several forms of cancer. Under normal conditions, EGF stimulates a rapid but transient activation of ERK as the signal is rapidly shutdown, whereas under cancerous conditions, the ERK signal cannot be shutdown and is sustained. Computational modelling techniques have been used to investigate the signalling dynamics of the EGFR/ERK pathway, focusing on identifying the key processes involved in signal termination and what role the ERK to son of sevenless (SOS) negative feedback loop plays in generating a transient response. This model predicts that this negative feedback loop is not needed to achieve a transient activation of ERK as the process of receptor degradation alone is enough to terminate the signal. Importantly, the behaviour and predictions of this model are verified with laboratory data, as is essential for modern systems biology approaches. Further analysis showed that the feedback loop and receptor degradation were both redundant processes, as each could compensate for the absence of the other. This led to the prediction that in the case of a receptor which is not degraded, such as the insulin receptor, the negative feedback loop to SOS will actually be essential for a transient response to be achieved. Overall, the results shed new light on the role of negative feedback in EGF receptor signalling and suggest that different receptors are dependent on different features within the ERK pathway when relaying their signals.

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