Office of Science Researcher’s Model is Featured on the Front Cover of the Journal Cell


A significant step in the development of the field of systems biology, marking the first time researchers have systematically perturbed and accurately predicted a cell’s dynamics at the genome scale (for most of the thousands of components in the cell), has been acknowledged by a cover in the prestigious journal Cell. DOE support of a team of biologists led by Nitin Baliga at the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle, WA, has enabled development of a model mapping a significant number of the circuits that control the biological activities of a whole free living organism, Halobacterium salinarium NRC-1. This detailed model of the pathways that allow the cell to function was extracted by carefully selected experiments involving genetic and environment perturbations and development of algorithms. The result was a model that was able to predict how over 80 percent of the total genome (several thousand genes) responded to stimuli over time, dynamically rearranging the cell’s makeup to meet environmental stresses. It is a valuable step in the ultimate goal of in silico prediction of cell behavior with its obvious potential for biofuels and pharmaceuticals. The study represents an important partnership between biologists and computer scientists that now provides experimental, algorithmic and software infrastructure for others to apply this approach to new organisms.