Signaling pathways are cascades of biochemical reactions that transduce environmental signals to the cell interior. The cells rely on the information transduced through signalling pathways to govern biological functions and maximise the fitness of the organism. Conversely, defects in the signalling pathways are implicated in various diseases, e.g. carcinogenesis. The intricate network of signalling pathways indicates the existence of sophisticated information processing mechanisms, motivating the key questions of this project: How much information is transmitted from the environment through the signalling pathway? How many features of the signals are conveyed? Are signals integrated over time? To answer these questions, the project combines state of the art quantitative optogenetic experiments and theoretical modelling using information theory to quantify the information flow in the canonical MAPK signaling pathway. Experimentally, a well-defined stimulus will be applied at the beginning of the pathway while measuring the response at the end of the signaling cascade. The results will be integrated into a theoretical framework based on statistical physics and information theory to quantify how much static and dynamic information is being transmitted, offering key insights into cell function — the building blocks of living organisms — with potential application in drug design. The strong interdisciplinary nature of this project and the detailed dissemination strategy promotes collaboration between research communities of physicists and biologists, as well as reinforces information as a key concept in life sciences. The included training plan ensures the candidate will acquire skills in advanced experimental and theoretical techniques, and the two-way transfer of knowledge provides mutual benefit between the candidate and the host institution.
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