Editors' ChoiceCell Biology

Transcription Factor as Computer

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Science Signaling  29 Jan 2013:
Vol. 6, Issue 260, pp. ec29
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.2003997

Cellular signaling pathways can serve to process information so that cells respond appropriately to various environmental stimuli. Hao et al. show that a single yeast transcription factor that is activated in response to stress—Msn2—can act as a signal processor. In an experimental setup in which the amplitude and duration of signaling in the cells could be tightly controlled, sites of phosphorylation on Msn2 that determine its transport into or out of the nucleus allowed it to have different dynamic responses depending on the amplitude of the signal detected. The transcription factor could either track with the incoming signal, filter (ignore) it, or integrate it. Understanding such properties may be useful in designing behavior of biological control systems.

N. Hao, B. A. Budnik, J. Gunawardena, E. K. O’Shea, Tunable signal processing through modular control of transcription factor translocation. Science 339, 460–464 (2013). [Abstract] [Full Text]