Thursday, 10 March 2011

Cellular Oscillatory Mechanisms (Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology)

Cellular Oscillatory Mechanisms (Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology)
Miguel Maroto | 2008-08-14 00:00:00 | Springer | 168 | Engineering

Living systems are fundamentally dynamic and adaptive, relying on a constant throughput of energy. They are also, by definition, self-sustaining over the full range of length and time scales. This characteristic combination of constant adaptive flux and emergent persistence requires that the properties of all living systems must, at some level, be cyclical. Consequently, oscillatory dynamics, in which system properties rise and fall in a regular rhythmic fashion, are a central feature of a wide range of biological processes. The scale of biological oscillations covers enormous ranges, from the sub-cellular to the population level, and from milliseconds to years.

While the existence of a number of biological oscillations is widely appreciated, there are many oscillatory phenomena that are much less obvious, albeit no less important. Since oscillations reflect periodic quantitative changes in system properties, their detection and characterisation relies on the quantitative measurement of a system over an extended period. Until recently, such measurements were difficult to obtain at cellular or sub-cellular resolution, and relatively few cellular oscillations had been described. However, recent methodological advances have revealed that oscillatory phenomena are as widespread in cells as they are at larger scales.

The chapters in this book provide an introduction to a range of both well known and less familiar cellular oscillations and serve to illustrate the striking richness of cellular dynamics. The contributions focus particularly on elucidating the basic mechanisms that underlie these oscillations. The essentially quantitative nature of oscillations has long made them an attractive area of study for theoretical biologists, and the application of complementary modelling and experimental approaches can yield insights into oscillatory dynamics that go beyond those that can be obtained by either in isolation. The benefits of this synergy are reflected in the contributions appearing in this book.

The current resurgence in interest in interdisciplinary approaches to cell and molecular biology stems in part from the increasing availability of system-wide data on the state of the components of cellular regulatory networks. Alimiting factor in these approaches is often the lack of suitable ways of characterising a network state in terms of summary quantitative features. Without such features, it is typically difficult to gain new qualitative insight into the operating logic of all but the simplest networks. In this regard, oscillatory phenomena provide ideal exemplars for systems approaches, since oscillations have clear summary features that prove invaluable in combining mathematical models with experimental data.

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