Biological systems display complex networks of interactions both at the level of molecules inside the cell and at the level of interactions between cells. Networks of interacting molecules, such as transcription networks, have been shown to be composed of recurring circuits called network motifs, each with specific dynamical functions. Much less is known about the possibility of such circuit analysis in networks made of communicating cells. Here, we study models of circuits in which a few cell types interact by means of signaling molecules. We consider circuits of cells with architectures that seem to recur in immunology. An intriguing feature of these circuits is their use of signaling molecules with a pleiotropic or paradoxical role, such as cytokines that increase both cell growth and cell death. We find that pleiotropic signaling molecules can provide cell circuits with systems-level functions. These functions include for different circuits maintenance of homeostatic cell concentrations, robust regulation of differentiation processes, and robust pulses of cells or cytokines.
|Original language||American English|
|Number of pages||6|
|Journal||Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America|
|State||Published - 22 May 2012|
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