"It was a little like having all the pieces of an airplane separated out, and not knowing how those pieces function together to create an airplane and make it fly," said Snyder. "We wanted to know how the tens of thousands of proteins coordinate to carry out complex processes such as growth, cell division and formation of complex cell types such as brain cells and intestinal cells."
Over the past several years, a large volume of information on genes in organisms as diverse as man, mouse, baker's yeast and viruses has been generated. While genomic DNA is the blueprint, the encoded proteins are the products that carry out the complex biological functions of cells. Although scientists can predict from the DNA what proteins are in the proteome of an organism, this study opens the door to seeing how they are coordinated to work together.
"This insight into the regulation and integration of biological networks has broad applications for basic science and clinical research," said Snyder. "Biological networks determine the development and function of organisms from the single-celled yeast to man; aberrations in those networks signal disease."
Biological networks are typically conserved between species, meaning that often the same type of protein carries out the same type of function, whether it is in a yeast cell or a human cell. According to Snyder, these findings in yeast are of immediate use for understanding both human development from the fertilized egg to full grown organism, and for drug discovery targeting human diseases.