How the cell uses cytokines as knobs instead of switches

Epigenetic layers function as analog information regulators


Excerpt: "Conventional wisdom has held that cytokines are “digital,” in that they either bind to a cellular receptor — triggering a cascade of signals within the cell — or they don’t. If a mutation prevents perfect binding, no cascade. There is no middle ground.

But maybe there is. A rare case of a rare disease has led an international research team headed by Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT associate member Vijay Sankaran of Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, postdoctoral fellow Ah Ram Kim, and Yale University’s Daryl Klein to propose an “analog” view of cytokine function. It may be, as they show in Cell, that cytokine mutations that affect not whether a protein and receptor interact, but the quality of that interaction, can tune a cell’s biochemical response, triggering some signals and not others.

This insight could give researchers an opening to develop cytokine-based therapeutics tailored to elicit particular activities — potentially a boon for people suffering forms of cancer, kidney disease, blood disorders, and more.

...In addition to explaining the child’s grave disease, the findings suggest something new: a different way to think about adapting cytokines therapeutically.

“In hematology and immunology, people tend to think about cytokines as working like on and off switches,” Sankaran said. Doctors commonly use or manipulate EPO and other cytokines to treat cancer, autoimmunity, immunodeficiencies, and other conditions, he said. “But what we’re learning is that maybe they can be tuned."

My comment: Population genetics has provided these pseudoscientific claims about genetic mutations for decades. Cytokine production is regulated by epigenetic control of gene expression. The most significant factors inducing this clever fine-tuning of cytokines are methylation levels of the (EPO) gene and miRNA control of the alternative splicing of pre-mRNA.

This kind of gradient tuning of protein production together with several other mechanisms needs perfect Design. Organisms are replete with this kind of regulatory mechanisms with tunable analog knobs. I have told about them in my previous posts:


Epigenetics is opening scientists' eyes to see the incredible complexity of the cell. Epigenetics will not save the theory of evolution. Everything points to Design and Creation. Don't get lost.