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By way of surface receptor molecules and internal surveillance mechanisms, the living cell receives information about its external environment and internal state. In light of this information, the cell must determine its most appropriate course of action under the circumstances and initiate the relevant response pathways. Typical responses include growth and division, sexual reproduction, movement, differentiation and programmed cell death. Similar to a digital computer that uses bistable electrical switches to store and process information, the living cell uses bistable biochemical switches to implement its decision-making capabilities. In this review article, we describe some of the lines of thought that led, over the last 50 years, to our current understanding of cellular information processing, particularly related to cell growth, division and death.

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cell growth, division and death, information processing, living cells