Friday, August 19, 2011

Information vs information carrier

Suppose I write the word "Mango" using pen and paper. Then, suppose I wrote the same word using a chalk and blackboard. It is obvious that I am conveying the same information. The instrument used to convey that information is hardly relevant.

If this analogy can be applied to biological systems, then it is misleading to study physical aspects of signaling separately. Whether the signaling is via transcription factors, enzymes, RNA molecules, small metabolites, or DNA structure, there may not be any relevance with the content of the information that is being delivered by those molecular interactions. Similarly, between-cell communication may not be related to the type of signaling (paracrine, endocrine, quorum sensing, etc.). It might even be possible that the information encoded by molecular interactions is no different that information encoded by cellular interactions.

In summary, it is possible that information in biological systems might come to light if we study the patterns and ignore the physical components that create those patterns. At the same time, the physical aspects are not completely irrelevant. One would not write a book using chalk and blackboard, so the physical aspects of the instruments do restrict the type of information that can be conveyed.

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