Design principles of biological circuits
Cells are constantly "making decisions" - monitoring their environment, modulating their metabolism and 'deciding' whether to divide, differentiate or die. For this, they use biochemical circuits composed of interacting genes and proteins. Advances over the past decades have mapped many of these circuits. Still, can we infer the underlying logic from the detailed circuit structure? Can we deduce the selection forces that shaped these circuits during evolution? What are the principles that govern the design and function of these circuits and how similar or different are they from principles that guide the design of man-made machines?
The interplay between variability and robustness is a hallmark of biological computation: Biological systems are inherently noisy, yet control their behavior precisely. Research projects in our lab quantify biological variability and identify its genetic origins, examine how variability is buffered by molecular circuits and investigate whether variability can in fact be employed to improve cellular computation.
We encourage a multi-disciplinary approach, combining wet-lab experiments, dynamic-system theory and computational data analysis. This is achieved through fruitful interactions between students with backgrounds in physics, biology, computer science, mathematics and chemistry.
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Weizmann Institute of Science
FEATURED ARTICLE Systematic identification of cell size regulators in budding yeast Ilya Soifer & Naama Barkai
Molecular Systems Biology (2014)
Cell size is determined by a complex interplay between growth and division, involving multiple cellular pathways. To identify systematically processes affecting size control in G1 in budding yeast, we imaged and analyzed the cell cycle of millions of individual cells representing 591 mutants implicated in size control. Quantitative metric distinguished mutants affecting the mechanism of size control from the majority of mutants that have a perturbed size due to indirect effects modulating cell growth. Overall, we identified 17 negative and dozens positive size control regulators, with the negative regulators forming a small network centered on elements of mitotic exit network. Some elements of the translation machinery affected size control with a notable distinction between the deletions.... Read more...
Departments of Molecular Genetics and Physics of Complex Systems