To measure chemical concentrations, cells need to extract information from stochastic receptor signals via signaling networks which are also inherently stochastic. Here, we study how the accuracy of sensing depends on the correlations between these extrinsic and intrinsic sources of noise. We find that the sensing precision of signaling networks that are not driven out of equilibrium is fundamentally limited by the fluctuation-dissipation theorem, which generates a tradeoff between the removal of extrinsic and intrinsic noise. As a result, the sensing precision of equilibrium systems is limited by the number of receptors; the downstream network can never improve sensing. To lift the tradeoff, energy dissipation is essential. This allows the receptor to transduce the signal as a catalyst and enables time integration of the receptor state. To beat the sensing limit of equilibrium systems, a canonical nonequilibrium signaling network based on the push-pull motif needs to dissipate at least 1kBT per receptor.

Phys. Rev. Lett.
Biochemical Networks

Govern, C.C, & ten Wolde, P.R. (2014). Energy Dissipation and Noise Correlations in Biochemical Sensing. Phys.Rev.Lett., 113(25, Article number: 258102), 1–5. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.113.258102