Cell Signalling Biology

Module 1: Introduction

Michael J. Berridge


The aim of this website is to describe cell signalling within its biological context. There has been an explosion in the characterization of signalling components and pathways. The next major challenge is to understand how cells exploit this large signalling toolkit to assemble the specific signalling pathways they require to communicate with each other. The primary focus is the biology of cell signalling. The emerging information on cell signalling pathways is integrated and presented within the context of specific cell types and processes. The beauty of cell signalling is the way different pathways are combined and adapted to control a diverse array of cellular processes in widely different spatial and temporal domains. The first half of the website characterizes the components and properties of the major cell signalling pathways, with special emphasis on how they are switched on and off. Attention is also focused on the spatial and temporal aspects that determine how information is encoded and distributed to precise cellular locations. The second half of the website deals with the way these different signalling pathways are employed to control the life history of cells from their birth during the process of cell proliferation, their differentiation into specific cell types to carry out different cell functions, and finally their death through processes such as apoptosis. Cell signalling orchestrates all these cellular processes. Many of the same signalling systems that control development come into play again to regulate a wide range of specific processes in adult cells, such as contraction, secretion, metabolism, proliferation, information processing in neurons and sensory perception. These examples illustrate how cell signalling pathways are adapted and co-ordinated to regulate many different cellular processes. This intimate relationship between cell signalling and biology is providing valuable insights into the underlying genetic and phenotypic defects responsible for many of the major human diseases.