The researchers used a highly complex mathematical model to determine what switches the mating process on and off, factoring in experimental data about the concentration of pheromones around the cell, the concentrations of different proteins relevant to mating inside the cell and how strongly these proteins bind together.
They believe their mathematical model can potentially be used to investigate the triggers that cause changes in other cells, such as stem cells becoming heart or bone cells, or normal cells becoming cancerous. This is because mammalian cells and yeast cells contain many of the same proteins, which work together in a chain reaction to trigger a decision in the cell. Therefore, today's new model could ultimately help researchers to develop new drugs and therapies.
Dr Shahrezaei said: "Yeast cells live in a very noisy environment - they are surrounded by different chemicals, including pheromones and food, and their own machinery inside the cell produces lots of biomolecules that interact with each other. We wanted to see how cells make sense of this noisy environment and work out what is happening, at a molecular level, to make a important decision like mating.
"By combining experiments and mathematical modelling that take lots of different factors into consideration, we have been able to show exactly what is happening inside a yeast cell to make it decide whether to mate with another cell. We also showed that the mechanism that leads the cells to make their decision is very robust, meaning it is not affected by molecular noise in the environment," added Dr Shahrezaei.
"Although yeast is dramatically different from people, at a molecular and cellular level we have a lot in common," said senior author Dr Stephen Michnick, a Universit de Montral biochemistry professor and Canada Research Chair in Integrative Genomics. "The same molecules th
|Contact: Lucy Goodchild|
Imperial College London