Biochemistry, Department of


Document Type


Date of this Version



Integrative & Comparative Biology 61:6 (December 2021), pp. 2082–2094.

doi: 10.1093/icb/icab174


Copyright © 2021 Kim L. Hoke, Sara L. Zimmer, Adam B. Roddy, Mary Jo Ondrechen, Craig E. Williamson, and Nicole R. Buan. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology. Used by permission.


Information, energy, and matter are fundamental properties of all levels of biological organization, and life emerges from the continuous flux of matter, energy, and information. This perspective piece defines and explains each of the three pillars of this nexus. We propose that a quantitative characterization of the complex interconversions between matter, energy, and information that compose this nexus will help us derive biological insights that connect phenomena across different levels of biological organization. We articulate examples from multiple biological scales that highlight how this nexus approach leads to a more complete understanding of the biological system. Metrics of energy, information, and matter can provide a common currency that helps link phenomena across levels of biological organization. The propagation of energy and information through levels of biological organization can result in emergent properties and system-wide changes that impact other hierarchical levels. Deeper consideration of measured imbalances in energy, information, and matter can help researchers identify key factors that influence system function at one scale, highlighting avenues to link phenomena across levels of biological organization and develop predictive models of biological systems.