Dual delayed feedback provides sensitivity and robustness to the NF-κB signaling module

PLoS Comput Biol. 2013;9(6):e1003112. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003112. Epub 2013 Jun 27.


Many cellular stress-responsive signaling systems exhibit highly dynamic behavior with oscillatory features mediated by delayed negative feedback loops. What remains unclear is whether oscillatory behavior is the basis for a signaling code based on frequency modulation (FM) or whether the negative feedback control modules have evolved to fulfill other functional requirements. Here, we use experimentally calibrated computational models to interrogate the negative feedback loops that regulate the dynamic activity of the transcription factor NF-κB. Linear stability analysis of the model shows that oscillatory frequency is a hard-wired feature of the primary negative feedback loop and not a function of the stimulus, thus arguing against an FM signaling code. Instead, our modeling studies suggest that the two feedback loops may be tuned to provide for rapid activation and inactivation capabilities for transient input signals of a wide range of durations; by minimizing late phase oscillations response durations may be fine-tuned in a graded rather than quantized manner. Further, in the presence of molecular noise the dual delayed negative feedback system minimizes stochastic excursions of the output to produce a robust NF-κB response.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Computer Simulation
  • Feedback*
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction*


  • NF-kappa B