Receptor oligomerization plays a key role in maintaining genome stability and restricting protein mutagenesis. When properly folded, protein monomers assemble as oligomeric receptors and interact with environmental ligands. In a gene-centered view, the ligand specificity expressed by these receptors is assumed to be causally predetermined by the cell genome. However, this mechanism does not fully explain how differentiated cells have come to express specific receptor repertoires and which combinatorial codes have been explored to activate their associated signaling pathways. It is our contention that the plasma membrane acts as the locus where several contextual cues may be integrated. As such it allows the semiotic selection of those receptor configurations that provide cells with the minimum essential requirements for agency. The occurrence of protein misfolding makes it impossible for receptor monomers to assemble along the membrane and to sustain meaningful relationships with environmental ligands. How could a cell lineage deal with these loss-of-function mutations during evolution and restrain gene redundancy accordingly? In this paper, we will be arguing that the easiest way for bacteria clones to accomplish this goal is by getting rid of cells expressing mutated receptor proteins. The mechanism sustaining this cell selection is also occurring in many somatic tissues and its function is currently believed to counteract in vivo protein mutagenesis. Our discussion will be mainly focused on the significance and semiotic nature of the interplay between membrane receptors and the epigenetic control of gene expression, as mediated by the control of mismatched repairing and protein folding mechanisms.
Biosemiotics, 2013, Vol 6, Issue 2, p. 177-190
Receptors; Mismatch repairing; Protein misfolding; Cell death