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.
Copyright 2004 Elsevier Ltd.