Researchers pair experiments with computer models to peer into cells

Mar 12, 2013

(Phys.org) —BBSRC-funded researchers have developed a new strategy that can give scientists a better insight into how complex molecular machineries function in living cells.

In research published in the journal Molecular , the team from the University of Warwick, Manchester Interdisciplinary Biocentre and showed how to extract in vivo information about how complex molecular systems in are controlled.

By making small changes in a process called mRNA translation, a crucial step in the manufacture of proteins within a cell, the team was able to obtain important information without disrupting the system.

These data were used to set parameters for a detailed of in cells, revealing a number of insights about the process which were previously unknown.

For example, the research showed how individual components in the mRNA translation process had co-evolved to share responsibility for controlling how fast proteins are made.

Professor John McCarthy, professor of molecular systems biology at Warwick University, said: "A major objective of systems biology is to move forward from analysis of individual to create accurate digital models that provide insight into how these components work together within living cells.

"Through this approach, we ultimately hope to understand the 'emergent properties' of molecular systems in cells that, for decades, have fascinated biologists but evaded proper explanation.

"Up to now, it has proved very difficult to obtain an accurate picture of how cells control the various processes that go on inside them, leaving us largely guessing how the properties of individual components relate to the behaviour of systems that are assembled from them within living cells.

"Using minimal perturbations of precisely targeted steps of specific together with a large number of quantitative analytical measurements, we have now made a major first step towards obtaining detailed insight into how the living cell's protein synthesis machinery is managed at the system level."

The approach has potential as a platform for a wide range of future studies into the molecular systems biology of gene expression.

The researchers also believe the combined experimental and computational approach taken should be applicable to multiple processes in a range of organisms.

Explore further: Top Japan lab dismisses ground-breaking stem cell study

More information: Firczuk, H. et al. An in vivo control map for the eukaryotic mRNA translation machinery, Molecular Systems Biology 9 (2013) 635.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Scientists observe single gene activity in living cells

Apr 21, 2011

Researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have for the first time observed the activity of a single gene in living cells. In an unprecedented study, published in the April 22 online edition ...

How molecules get to the right place at the right time

Apr 20, 2011

Active transport processes in cells ensure that proteins with specialized local functions reach their intracellular destinations. Impaired transport causes cellular dysfunction or even cell death. Scientists from Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet ...

Recommended for you

Top Japan lab dismisses ground-breaking stem cell study

Dec 26, 2014

Japan's top research institute on Friday hammered the final nail in the coffin of what was once billed as a ground-breaking stem cell study, dismissing it as flawed and saying the work could have been fabricated.

Research sheds light on what causes cells to divide

Dec 24, 2014

When a rapidly-growing cell divides into two smaller cells, what triggers the split? Is it the size the growing cell eventually reaches? Or is the real trigger the time period over which the cell keeps growing ...

Locking mechanism found for 'scissors' that cut DNA

Dec 24, 2014

Researchers at Johns Hopkins have discovered what keeps an enzyme from becoming overzealous in its clipping of DNA. Since controlled clipping is required for the production of specialized immune system proteins, ...

Scrapie could breach the species barrier

Dec 24, 2014

INRA scientists have shown for the first time that the pathogens responsible for scrapie in small ruminants (prions) have the potential to convert the human prion protein from a healthy state to a pathological ...

Extracting bioactive compounds from marine microalgae

Dec 24, 2014

Microalgae can produce high value health compounds like omega-3s , traditionally sourced from fish. With declining fish stocks, an alternative source is imperative. Published in the Pertanika Journal of Tr ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.