Researchers pair experiments with computer models to peer into cells

March 12, 2013, University of Warwick

(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: New insights into cell division: Researchers develop minimal system

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

Related Stories

Scientists observe single gene activity in living cells

April 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

April 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

Scientists shed light on biological roots of individuality

February 16, 2018

Put 50 newborn worms in 50 separate containers, and they'll all start looking for food at roughly the same time. Like members of other species, microscopic C. elegans roundworms tend to act like other individuals their own ...

Plants are given a new family tree

February 16, 2018

A new genealogy of plant evolution, led by researchers at the University of Bristol, shows that the first plants to conquer land were a complex species, challenging long-held assumptions about plant evolution.

Birds and beans: Study shows best coffee for bird diversity

February 16, 2018

It's an age-old debate for coffee lovers. Which is better: Arabica beans with their sweeter, softer taste, or the bold, deep flavor of Robusta beans? A new study by WCS, Princeton University, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison ...

0 comments

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.