Developmental noise is a concept that correspond to the amount of possible phenotypic variance of a given genotype in a given environment.

Intrinsic noise (aka Cellular noise) is a component of developmental noise and it refers to phenotypic variations caused by the stochasticity of biochemical processes.

My question is:

What are the other component(s) of developmental noise?


2 Answers 2


There are two good papers on this that I like a lot:

Noise in Gene Expression: Origins, Consequences, and Control

Cellular decision making and biological noise: from microbes to mammals.

I think they can tell you better than I can, but the major other source of noise is extrinsic noise. Extrinsic noise typically is taken to means two things (both of which are related): 1. Physical noise from the environment that affects biological processes (thermodynamic fluctuations, for example) 2. Intercellular heterogeneity caused by, for example, unequal division. This is also related to cells not being "well mixed" - essentially, molecules found inside of cells are not evenly distributed throughout it.

There may be other kinds of noise, but I think extrinsic is really the main one you should think about.

  • $\begingroup$ These papers sound interesting. $\endgroup$
    – Chris
    Sep 12, 2014 at 18:44

Another source of developmental noise is due to diffusion. Diffusive processes are stochastic and induce noise in morphogen gradients and results in the concentration as being "jagged". Recent results have directly measured the noise in morphogen gradients of the developing zebrafish.

In fact, when you think about the low copy numbers of transcription factors which are thought to be morphogens,there must be a massive amount of noise in gradients which the developing systems have to account for.


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