Multiplexing information flow through dynamic signalling systems

Giorgos Minas, Dan J. Woodcock, Louise Ashall, Claire V. Harper, Michael R.H. White, David A. Rand*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
2 Downloads (Pure)


We consider how a signalling system can act as an information hub by multiplexing information arising from multiple signals. We formally define multiplexing, mathematically characterise which systems can multiplex and how well they can do it. While the results of this paper are theoretical, to motivate the idea of multiplexing, we provide experimental evidence that tentatively suggests that the NF-κB transcription factor can multiplex information about changes in multiple signals. We believe that our theoretical results may resolve the apparent paradox of how a system like NF-κB that regulates cell fate and inflammatory signalling in response to diverse stimuli can appear to have the low information carrying capacity suggested by recent studies on scalar signals. In carrying out our study, we introduce new methods for the analysis of large, nonlinear stochastic dynamic models, and develop computational algorithms that facilitate the calculation of fundamental constructs of information theory such as Kullback–Leibler divergences and sensitivity matrices, and link these methods to a new theory about multiplexing information. We show that many current models such as those of the NF-κB system cannot multiplex effectively and provide models that overcome this limitation using post-transcriptional modifications.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1008076
Pages (from-to)e1008076
Number of pages18
JournalPLoS Computational Biology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 3 Aug 2020


  • Algorithms
  • Cell Communication/physiology
  • Cell Differentiation/physiology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Early Growth Response Protein 1/metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Information Theory
  • Models, Biological
  • NF-kappa B/metabolism
  • Signal Transduction/physiology
  • Single-Cell Analysis
  • Stochastic Processes


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