Highly networked signaling hubs are often associated with disease, but targeting them pharmacologically has largely been unsuccessful in the clinic because of their functional pleiotropy. Motivated by the hypothesis that a dynamic signaling code confers functional specificity, we investigated whether dynamic features may be targeted pharmacologically to achieve therapeutic specificity. With a virtual screen, we identified combinations of signaling hub topologies and dynamic signal profiles that are amenable to selective inhibition. Mathematical analysis revealed principles that may guide stimulus-specific inhibition of signaling hubs, even in the absence of detailed mathematical models. Using the NFκB signaling module as a test bed, we identified perturbations that selectively affect the response to cytokines or pathogen components. Together, our results demonstrate that the dynamics of signaling may serve as a pharmacological target, and we reveal principles that delineate the opportunities and constraints of developing stimulus-specific therapeutic agents aimed at pleiotropic signaling hubs.
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