Biologists are all abuzz about synthetic biology, which involves designing and building new biological parts and systems from their individual components. A study in the 16 February 2006 issue of Nature (Vol. 439, No. 7078, pp. 856-860) shows one way that this might be possible.
James Collins and his team engineered a region of bacterial DNA so that they could artificially turn on one gene, and turn off another, by adding chemicals to the bacterial cells. They tested gene expression under several different conditions, and used this information to build a mathematical model that mirrored the behaviour of this gene network.
Crucially, the team then showed that predictions made by the model about how the genes would act under certain experimental conditions closely matched how the network really behaved in bacteria, where many other genes and proteins could potentially complicate the situation.
The authors say their findings demonstrate that models of relatively simple processes in the cell can be used to predict the behaviour of larger, more complex ones - a so-called 'bottom-up' approach.
James Collins (Boston University, Boston, MA, USA)
(C) Nature press release.
Message posted by: Trevor M. D'Souza