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Open Access Research article

The coupling of pathways and processes through shared components

Daniel D Seaton1 and J Krishnan12*

Author Affiliations

1 Dept. of Chemical Engineering and Centre for Process Systems Engineering Imperial College London, South Kensington Campus, London, SW7 2AZ, UK

2 Institute for Systems and Synthetic Biology Imperial College London, South Kensington Campus, London, SW7 2AZ, UK

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BMC Systems Biology 2011, 5:103  doi:10.1186/1752-0509-5-103

Published: 29 June 2011

Abstract

Background

The coupling of pathways and processes through shared components is being increasingly recognised as a common theme which occurs in many cell signalling contexts, in which it plays highly non-trivial roles.

Results

In this paper we develop a basic modelling and systems framework in a general setting for understanding the coupling of processes and pathways through shared components. Our modelling framework starts with the interaction of two components with a common third component and includes production and degradation of all these components. We analyze the signal processing in our model to elucidate different aspects of the coupling. We show how different kinds of responses, including "ultrasensitive" and adaptive responses, may occur in this setting. We then build on the basic model structure and examine the effects of additional control regulation, switch-like signal processing, and spatial signalling. In the process, we identify a way in which allosteric regulation may contribute to signalling specificity, and how competitive effects may allow an enzyme to robustly coordinate and time the activation of parallel pathways.

Conclusions

We have developed and analyzed a common systems platform for examining the effects of coupling of processes through shared components. This can be the basis for subsequent expansion and understanding the many biologically observed variations on this common theme.