Using plasma membrane nanoclusters to build better signaling circuits

Trends Cell Biol. 2008 Aug;18(8):364-71. doi: 10.1016/j.tcb.2008.05.006. Epub 2008 Jul 10.


Cellular signaling pathways do not simply transmit data; they integrate and process signals to operate as switches, oscillators, logic gates, memory modules and many other types of control system. These complex processing capabilities enable cells to respond appropriately to the myriad of external cues that direct growth and development. The idea that crosstalk and feedback loops are used as control systems in biological signaling networks is well established. Signaling networks are also subject to exquisite spatial regulation, yet how spatial control modulates signal outputs is less well understood. Here, we explore the spatial organization of two different signal transduction circuits: receptor tyrosine kinase activation of the mitogen-activated protein kinase module; and glycosylphosphatidylinositol-anchored receptor activation of phospholipase C. With regards to these pathways, recent results have refocused attention on the crucial role of lipid rafts and plasma membrane nanodomains in signal transmission. We identify common design principals that highlight how the spatial organization of signal transduction circuits can be used as a fundamental control mechanism to modulate system outputs in vivo.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Membrane Microdomains
  • Receptor Cross-Talk*
  • Signal Transduction*