'Molecular habituation' as a potential mechanism of gradual homeostatic loss with age

Mech Ageing Dev. 2018 Jan:169:53-62. doi: 10.1016/j.mad.2017.11.010. Epub 2017 Nov 14.


The ability of reactive oxygen species (ROS) to cause molecular damage has meant that chronic oxidative stress has been mostly studied from the point of view of being a source of toxicity to the cell. However, the known duality of ROS molecules as both damaging agents and cellular redox signals implies another perspective in the study of sustained oxidative stress. This is a perspective of studying oxidative stress as a constitutive signal within the cell. In this work, we adopt a theoretical perspective as an exploratory and explanatory approach to examine how chronic oxidative stress can interfere with signal processing by redox signalling pathways in the cell. We report that constitutive signals can give rise to a 'molecular habituation' effect that can prime for a gradual loss of biological function. This is because a constitutive signal in the environment has the potential to reduce the responsiveness of a signalling pathway through the prolonged activation of negative regulators. Additionally, we demonstrate how this phenomenon is likely to occur in different signalling pathways exposed to persistent signals and furthermore at different levels of biological organisation.

Keywords: Ageing; Information theory; Oxidative stress; Redox signalling; Systems modelling.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aging / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Homeostasis*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological*
  • Oxidative Stress*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction*


  • Reactive Oxygen Species