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Broadband Beasts

In today’s PhysOrg highlights, we hear about how yeast cells are able to communicate with one another via biochemical means. Using mathematical means to separate “noise” from information pathways. These beasts have “broadband”!

“The mathematics provides variance decomposition techniques for dynamic systems,” said Dr Bowsher. “We were able to make rigorous connections between the concept of intrinsic noise in systems biology, the notion of information capacity used in communications engineering, and a correlation ratio introduced in the 1950s by Alfréd Rényi. We constructed a generalised signal-to-noise measure from the variance components to quantify the efficacy of information flow through a biochemical network.”

Here’s a quote:

The paper, which describes the application of this approach to yeast cells, shows that the majority of cellular variation may be informational in origin and due to fluctuations in the cellular environment. The results pave the way to a better understanding of the dynamics of signal processing and decision-making by cells.

Most interestingly, here’s this from the PNAS abstract:

By applying our approach to osmo-sensing in yeast, we can predict the probability of the different osmotic conditions experienced by wild-type yeast and show that the majority of variation can be informational if we include variation generated in response to the cellular environment. Our results are fundamental to quantifying sources of variation and thus are a means to understand biological “design.”

I suppose the scare quotes let’s us know the authors/experimenters don’t really believe in ID (they’re just identifying it; i.e., don’t blame them).

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