Bio-switches: what makes them robust?

Curr Opin Genet Dev. 2004 Aug;14(4):428-34. doi: 10.1016/j.gde.2004.05.001.


Ideas of how a system of interacting enzymes can act as a switch are based on the concept of bistability of a biochemical network. This means that, because of the very structure of a signaling pathway, the system can be in one of two stable steady states: active or inactive. Switching from one state to another may then occur in response to external stimuli or as a result of internal development. However, the bistability of a biochemical network might not be robust enough to be the sole mechanism behind bio-switching. On the basis of recent experimental data on the cell-cycle G2/M transition during starfish oocyte meiotic maturation, it is shown that cooperative phenomena--such as phase changes associated with clustering, dissolution of aggregates and so on--may play central roles in providing a decisive and irreversible transition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Enzyme Activation / physiology*
  • Feedback, Physiological / physiology
  • Meiosis / physiology
  • Models, Biological*
  • Oocytes / physiology
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Starfish / physiology*