Criticality and Adaptivity in Enzymatic Networks
P. J. Steiner, R. J. Williams, J. Hasty and L. S. Tsimring

The contrast between the stochasticity of biochemical networks and the regularity of cellular behavior suggests that biological networks generate robust behavior from noisy constituents. Identifying the mechanisms that confer this ability on biological networks is essential to understanding cells. Here we show that queueing for a limited shared resource in broad classes of enzymatic networks in certain conditions leads to a critical state characterized by strong and long-ranged correlations between molecular species. An enzymatic network reaches this critical state when the input flux of its substrate is balanced by the maximum processing capacity of the network. We then consider enzymatic networks with adaptation, when the limiting resource (enzyme or cofactor) is produced in proportion to the demand for it. We show that the critical state becomes an attractor for these networks, which points toward the onset of self-organized criticality. We suggest that the adaptive queueing motif that leads to significant correlations between multiple species may be widespread in biological systems.
Published in Biophysical Journal, Vol. 111 (2016), Issue 5, 1078-1087. For a the publisher's website version, click here.