The threshold of an excitable system serves as a control mechanism for noise filtering during chemotaxis

Sayak Bhattacharya, Pablo A. Iglesias

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Chemotaxis, the migration of cells in the direction of a chemical gradient, is of utmost importance in various biological processes. In recent years, research has demonstrated that the underlying mechanism that controls cell migration is an excitable network. One of the properties that characterizes excitability is the presence of a threshold for activation. Here, we show that excitable systems possess noise filtering capabilities that enable faster and more efficient directed migration compared to other systems that also include a threshold, such as ultrasensitive switches. We demonstrate that this filtering ability is a consequence of the varying responses of excitable systems to step and pulse stimuli. Whereas the response to step inputs is determined solely by the magnitude of the stimulus, for pulse stimuli, the response depends on both the magnitude and duration of the stimulus. We then show that these two forms of threshold behavior can be decoupled from one another, allowing finer control in chemotaxis. Finally, we use a simple model of chemotaxis to demonstrate that cells that rely on an excitable system display faster and more effective directed migration that a hypothetical cell guided by an ultra-sensitive switch.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0201283
JournalPloS one
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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