In search of noise-induced bimodality
Department of Bioengineering, University of Washington, William H Foege Building, Box 355061, Seattle, WA 98195-5061, USA
BMC Biology 2012, 10:89 doi:10.1186/1741-7007-10-89Published: 7 November 2012
Many biological studies are carried out on large populations of cells, often in order to obtain enough material to make measurements. However, we now know that noise is endemic in biological systems and this results in cell-to-cell variability in what appears to be a population of identical cells. Although often neglected, this noise can have a dramatic effect on system responses to environmental cues with significant and often counter-intuitive biological outcomes. A recent study in BMC Systems Biology provides an example of this, documenting a bimodal distribution of activated extracellular signal-regulated kinase in a population of cells exposed to epidermal growth factor and demonstrating that the observed bimodality of the response is induced purely by noise.