Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 13 (NIPS 2000)
Many processes in biology, from the regulation of gene expression in bacteria to memory in the brain, involve switches constructed from networks of biochemical reactions. Crucial molecules are present in small numbers, raising questions about noise and stability. Analysis of noise in simple reaction schemes indicates that switches stable for years and switchable in milliseconds can be built from fewer than one hundred molecules. Prospects for direct tests of this prediction, as well as implications, are discussed.