Design of a critical safety switch: A biological perspective on decentralized control

  • How do you design a safety switch in the absence of centralised control in a system of network of networks that will safeguard system survival in energy limiting conditions but also ensure that the machinery is primed for activation with minimal energy expenditure once conditions change.
  • In the absence of centralized control, system evolution contributes to robustness by assessing system survival of thousands of sub-system modifications (mutations) via their impact on system level stability.
  • One fundamental quality of living cells is the ability to respond to environmental conditions, with the ability of responding to changing energy sources being a key aspect for survival.
  • DNA wrapping in a nucleosome renders it inaccessible to different enzymes of the nuclear machinery and therefore creates a mechanistic switch: move or disassemble those histone proteins and the underlying DNA becomes accessible, put it back in place and is back in off position.
  • In normal conditions the energy barrier is not prohibitive to normal nuclear activities, a bit like a voltage regulated transistor.

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