Bioengineers at the University of California, San Diego have developed a method of modeling, simultaneously, an organism's metabolism and its underlying gene expression. In the emerging field of systems biology, scientists model cellular behavior in order to understand how processes such as metabolism and gene expression relate to one another and bring about certain characteristics in the larger organism.
In addition to serving as a platform for investigating fundamental biological questions, this technology enables far more detailed calculations of the total cost of synthesizing many different chemicals, including biofuels. Their method accounts, in molecular detail, for the material and energy required to keep a cell growing, the research team reported in the journal Nature Communications.
"This is a major advance in genome-scale analysis that accounts for the fundamental biological process of gene expression and notably expands the number of cellular phenotypes that we can compute," said Bernhard Palsson, Galetti Professor of Bioengineering, at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.
"With this new method, it is now possible to perform computer simulations of systems-level molecular biology to formulate questions about fundamental life processes, the cellular impacts of genetic manipulation or to quantitatively analyze gene expression data," said Joshua Lerman, a Ph.D. candidate in Palsson's Systems Biology Research Group.
The team's method can be compared to understanding both the chemical reactions and the machinery that are required to refine crude oil into petrol in a large, industrial factory. Modeling metabolism tells you what biochemical reactions need to take place. Modeling the organism's gene expression tells you what kind of machinery you need. The team's method specifically accounts for the expression of enzymes, which are the molecular machines responsible for the biochemical processes o
|Contact: Catherine Hockmuth|
University of California - San Diego