Stochasticity is an essential aspect of biochemical processes at the cellular level. We now know that living cells take advantage of stochasticity in some cases and counteract stochastic effects in others. Here we propose a method that allows us to calculate contributions of individual reactions to the total variability of a system's output. We demonstrate that reactions differ significantly in their relative impact on the total noise and we illustrate the importance of protein degradation on the overall variability for a range of molecular processes and signaling systems. With our flexible and generally applicable noise decomposition method, we are able to shed new, to our knowledge, light on the sources and propagation of noise in biochemical reaction networks; in particular, we are able to show how regulated protein degradation can be employed to reduce the noise in biochemical systems.
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