The result was an exhaustive circuit-function map of enzymatic regulatory networks that identified two core structures that are common to every adaptive response, however simple or complex: a negative feedback loop with a buffering node, and a feed-forward loop that adjusts the proportion of response. Furthermore, the researchers said, they established that the most robust adaptive responses rely heavily on at least one of these two minimal motifs.
"This is a new way of looking at biology and disease," Lim said. "We've sequenced the genome, we know the genes involved and have started to understand how they're connected together. But it's like opening your computer and looking at the chips and circuits inside how do you begin to understand it?"
Unlike chemistry, in which the core elements were understood 100 years ago, there is no equivalent of the periodic table in the field of biology. The field of systems biology, in which both Lim and Tang focus, aims to create that same systematic approach to understanding how cells and biological systems work.
The goal is to break down the overwhelming amount of information that has been generated by advances over the last decade in genetic sequencing, into recognizable modules that can then be further studied, understood and ultimately used to create drug therapies for complex diseases such as cancer and diabetes that involve multiple genes.
Thus, beyond the specific advance in this particular research, the team's ability to reduce millions of cellular responses to two common circuits lays the groundwork for similar analyses in other biological systems. Despite the diversity of possible biochemical networks, the team said, it may be common to find that only a fi
|Contact: Kristen Bole|
University of California - San Francisco