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Coupled membrane transporters reduce noise

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Luca Cardelli, Luca Laurenti, Attila Csikasz-Nagy

Original languageEnglish
Article number012414
Issue number1
Published27 Jan 2020

King's Authors


Molecular systems are inherently probabilistic and operate in a noisy environment, yet, despite all these uncertainties, molecular functions are surprisingly reliable and robust. The principles used by natural systems to deal with noise are still not well understood, especially in a nonhomogeneous environment where molecules can diffuse across different compartments. In this paper we show that membrane transport mechanisms have very effective properties of noise reduction. In particular, we show that active transport mechanisms (those that can transport against a gradient of concentration by using energy or by means of the concentration gradient of other substances), such as symporters and antiporters, have surprising efficiency in noise reduction, which outperforms passive diffusion mechanisms and are well below Poisson levels. We link our results to the coupled transport of potassium, sodium, and glucose to show that the noise in internal glucose level can be greatly reduced. Our results show that compartmentalization can be a highly effective mechanism of noise reduction and suggests that membrane transport could give this extra benefit, contributing to the emergence of complex compartmentalization in eukaryotes.

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