Theoretical upper bound of multiplexing in biological sensory receptors

Biological sensory receptors provide excellent examples of microscopic scale information transduction amidst stochastic noise. We argue that stochasticity is not always a hindrance to sensing. Instead, it could allow a single stochastic sensor to perform multiplexing: simultaneously transducing multiple types of environmental information to the downstream sensory network. Through a Langevin dynamics simulation of a ligand-receptor sensor in a bath of ligands, we demonstrate that a binary-state receptor can simultaneously encode multiple independent environmental variables, such as ligand concentration and the speed of media flow. We develop a general theory of stochastic sensory multiplexing and suggest two theoretical upper bounds. Furthermore, we conjecture that randomly generated sensors typically saturate the tighter upper bound. The theoretical framework developed in this study, which involves a rank-deficient maximum likelihood analysis (rd-MLE), provides a systematic approach to comprehensively assess a sensor's sensory ability without any initial assumptions. This theoretical framework can inspire the design of more efficient artificial sensors.

Pagare, A., Min, S. H., & Lu, Z. (2023). Theoretical upper bound of multiplexing in biological sensory receptors. Physical Review Research, 5(2).