Similarly like a hormone or other extracellular "first messengers" that bind to its receptor on a cell surface, a signal is transmitted or "transduced" to the cells interior, thus setting a series of events that produce a biological response. Such "events" include both chemical reactions and physical reactions like a conformational change in the protein molecules. The biological responses include cell differentiation, altered metabolism and cell growth and division.
There are three signaling pathways that share many of the same intracellular events. Each pathway is characterized by its receptor and by the cascade of intracellular events that lead to a biological response. Each receptor has an extracellular, transmembrane, and intracellular component and the binding of a ligand to the receptor represents the "primary message". The term "secondary messenger" is used for those mediators that diffuse from one part of the intracellular space to its spatially removed target. Among these secondary messengers are adenosine-3,-5-cyclic phosphate (c-AMP).
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