Information theory and the ethylene genetic network
Volume 6, Issue 10
Downloads and Tools
Pages 1483 - 1498http://dx.doi.org/10.4161/psb.6.10.16424
Authors: José S. González-García and José Díaz View affiliations
The original aim of the Information Theory (IT) was to solve a purely technical problem: to increase the performance of communication systems, which are constantly affected by interferences that diminish the quality of the transmitted information. That is, the theory deals only with the problem of transmitting with the maximal precision the symbols constituting a message. In Shannon's theory messages are characterized only by their probabilities, regardless of their value or meaning. The main point of discussion about the applicability of IT to explain the information flow in biological systems is that in a classic communication channel, the symbols that conform the coded message are transmitted one by one in an independent form through a noisy communication channel, and noise can alter each of the symbols, distorting the message; in contrast, in a genetic communication channel the coded messages are not transmitted in the form of symbols but signaling cascades transmit them. Consequently, the information flow from the emitter to the effector is due to a series of coupled physicochemical processes that must ensure the accurate transmission of the message. In this review we discussed a novel proposal to overcome this difficulty, which consists of the modeling of gene expression with a stochastic approach that allows Shannon entropy (H) to be directly used to measure the amount of uncertainty that the genetic machinery has in relation to the correct decoding of a message transmitted into the nucleus by a signaling pathway. From the value of H we can define a function I that measures the amount of information content in the input message that the cell's genetic machinery is processing during a given time interval. Combining Information Theory with the frequency response analysis of dynamical systems we can examine the cell's genetic response to input signals with varying frequencies, amplitude and form, in order to determine if the cell can distinguish between different regimes of information flow from the environment.
Received: May 9, 2011; Accepted: June 22, 2011