Noise-limited frequency signal transmission in gene circuits.
To maintain normal physiology, cells must properly process diverse signals arising from changes in temperature, pH, nutrient concentrations, and other factors. Many physiological processes are controlled by temporal aspects of oscillating signals; that is, these signals can encode information in the frequency domain. By modeling simple gene circuits, we analyze the impact of cellular noise on the fidelity and speed of frequency-signal transmission. We find that transmission of frequency signals is "all-or-none", limited by a critical frequency (f(c)). Signals with frequencies f(c) are severely corrupted or completely lost in transmission. We argue that f(c) is an intrinsic property of a gene circuit and it varies with circuit parameters and additional feedback or feedforward regulation. Our results may have implications for understanding signal processing in natural biological networks and for engineering synthetic gene circuits.
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