A better understanding of the yeast galactose network could lead to new insights in human cell behavior, human physiology and metabolic diseases such as diabetes. "The more we know about gene networks, the more we learn about how they can fail," said Bennett.
Feeding Yeast the Microfluidic Way
The work also highlights the kinds of important biological insights that scientists can gain by studying how gene networks operate in dynamic, life-like environments, rather than in steady-state environments. The bioengineers built yeast growth chambers in which food is delivered by microfluidic tubes. The design allowed for the raising and lowering of glucose levels with great control, while keeping galactose levels steady.
"Much of gene regulation appears to deal with changes in the environment. Our new work demonstrates that you can modify the environment in a highly controlled way and then monitor single cells in order to see how specific gene networks respond to the environmental changes," explained bioengineering professor Jeff Hasty, the senior author on the Nature paper.
The researchers found that yeast are much better at adapting to changes in available food sources than the prevailing models predicted.
"We didn't expect that yeast would respond so quickly to changes in glucose levels until we did these experiments," said Bennett
By controlling the exact growth conditions with microfluidic technology, the engineers determined that the canonical models for the yeast metabolic network underestimated how quickly and nimbly yeast can switch from galactose to glucose.
"The experimental system was much better than the computational models predicted. The model started filtering out the glucose pulses too soon," said Ha
|Contact: Daniel Kane|
University of California - San Diego