Computational biology

'Whole-cell' computer model

    Highly read on 9 July–8 Aug

    By producing a mathematical model of an entire human bacterial pathogen, researchers have made predictions about its cellular behaviour. The model accounts for the functions of the bacterium's known genes and the interactions between its constituent molecules.

    Built by Markus Covert at Stanford University in California and his colleagues, the model captures the life cycle of the bacterium Mycoplasma genitalium, which has 525 genes. It incorporates data from more than 1,900 experimental measurements and encapsulates 28 groups of cellular processes, from DNA replication to protein folding. Using their tool, the researchers predicted that, on average, there are more than 30,000 collisions between pairs of DNA-binding proteins on the organism's single chromosome per cell cycle — a number that would be difficult to deduce experimentally.

    Whole-cell models could speed up biological research and even pave the way for computer-designed organisms, the researchers say.

    Cell 150, 389–401 (2012)

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    'Whole-cell' computer model. Nature 488, 257 (2012).

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