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.



Meyer bulding 404
Weizmann Institute of Science
Rehovot 76100

Dual role of starvation signaling in promoting growth and recovery
Yonat Gurvich, Dena Leshkowitz, Naama Barkai
PLOS Biology (2017)

Growing cells are subject to cycles of nutrient depletion and repletion. A shortage of nutrients activates a starvation program that promotes growth in limiting conditions. To examine whether nutrient-deprived cells prepare also for their subsequent recovery, we followed the transcription program activated in budding yeast transferred to low-phosphate media and defined its contribution to cell growth during phosphate limitation and upon recovery. An initial transcription wave was induced by moderate phosphate depletion that did not affect cell growth. A second transcription wave followed when phosphate became growth limiting. The starvation program contributed to growth only in the second, growth-limiting phase. Notably, the early response, activated at moderate depletion, promoted recovery from starvation by increasing phosphate influx upon transfer to rich medium. Our results suggest that cells subject to nutrient depletion prepare not only for growth in the limiting conditions but also for their predicted recovery once nutrients are replenished... ....Read more...

Departments of Molecular Genetics and Physics of Complex Systems