Noise permeates biology on all levels, from the most basic molecular, sub-cellular processes to the dynamics of tissues, organs, organisms and populations. The functional roles of noise in biological processes can vary greatly. Along with standard, entropy-increasing effects of producing random mutations, diversifying phenotypes in isogenic populations, limiting information capacity of signaling relays, it occasionally plays more surprising constructive roles by accelerating the pace of evolution, providing selective advantage in dynamic environments, enhancing intracellular transport of biomolecules and increasing information capacity of signaling pathways. This short review covers the recent progress in understanding mechanisms and effects of fluctuations in biological systems of different scales and the basic approaches to their mathematical modeling.
Lev S Tsimring 2014 Rep. Prog. Phys. 77 026601