A growing number of studies are revealing that cells can send and receive information by controlling the temporal behavior (dynamics) of their signaling molecules. In this Review, we discuss what is known about the dynamics of various signaling networks and their role in controlling cellular responses. We identify general principles that are emerging in the field, focusing specifically on how the identity and quantity of a stimulus is encoded in temporal patterns, how signaling dynamics influence cellular outcomes, and how specific dynamical patterns are both shaped and interpreted by the structure of molecular networks. We conclude by discussing potential functional roles for transmitting cellular information through the dynamics of signaling molecules and possible applications for the treatment of disease.
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