Quantitative Biology - Subcellular Processes Publications (50)


Quantitative Biology - Subcellular Processes Publications

We present a generalized Landau-Brazovskii free energy for the solidification of chiral molecules on a spherical surface in the context of the assembly of viral shells. We encounter two types of icosahedral solidification transitions. The first type is a conventional first-order phase transition from the uniform to the icosahedral state. Read More

The concept of allostery in which macromolecules switch between two different conformations is a central theme in biological processes ranging from gene regulation to cell signaling to enzymology. Allosteric enzymes pervade metabolic processes, yet a simple and unified treatment of the effects of allostery in enzymes has been lacking. In this work, we take the first step towards this goal by modeling allosteric enzymes and their interaction with two key molecular players - allosteric regulators and competitive inhibitors. Read More

A tri-block nanoparticle (TBN) comprising of an enzymatically cleavable porous gelatin nanocore encapsulated with gefitinib (tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI)) and surface functionalized with cetuximab-siRNA conjugate has been synthesized. Targeted delivery of siRNA to undruggable KRAS mutated non-small cell lung cancer cells would sensitize the cells to TKI drugs and offers an efficient therapy for treating cancer; however, efficient delivery of siRNA and releasing it in cytoplasm remains a major challenge. We have shown TBN can efficiently deliver siRNA to cytoplasm of KRAS mutant H23 Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC) cells for oncogene knockdown; subsequently, sensitizing it to TKI. Read More

Understanding the operation of biological molecular motors, nanoscale machines that transduce electrochemical energy into mechanical work, is enhanced by bottom-up strategies to synthesize novel motors. Read More

Viruses are incapable of autonomous energy production. Although many experimental studies make it clear that viruses are parasitic entities that hijack the host's molecular resources, a detailed estimate for the energetic cost of viral synthesis is largely lacking. To quantify the energetic cost of viruses to their hosts, we enumerated the costs associated with two very distinct but representative DNA and RNA viruses, namely T4 and influenza. Read More

HIV-1 virions assemble as immature particles containing Gag polyproteins that are processed by the viral protease into individual components, resulting in the formation of mature infectious particles. There are two competing models for the process of forming the mature HIV-1 core: the disassembly and de novo reassembly model and the non-diffusional displacive model. To study the maturation pathway, we simulate HIV-1 maturation in vitro by digesting immature particles and assembled virus-like particles with recombinant HIV-1 protease and monitor the process with biochemical assays and cryoEM structural analysis in parallel. Read More

Synthetic biology sets out to implement new functions in cells, and to develop a deeper understanding of biological design principles. In 2000, Elowitz and Leibler showed that by rational design of the reaction network, and using existing biological components, they could create a network that exhibits periodic gene expression, dubbed the repressilator (Elowitz and Leibler, Nature, 2000). More recently, Stricker et al. Read More

In this paper, we develop and analyze a minimal model for a 2D network of cross-linked actin filaments and myosin motors, representing the cortical cytoskeleton of eukaryotic cells. We implement coarse-grained representations of force production by myosin motors and stress dissipation through an effective cross-link friction and filament turnover. We use this model to characterize how the sustained production of active stress, and the steady dissipation of elastic stress, depend individually on motor activity, effective cross-link friction and filament turnover. Read More

Membrane-protein systems constitute an important avenue for a variety of targeted therapies. The ability to alter these systems remotely via physical fields is highly desirable for the advance of noninvasive therapies. Biophysical action of acoustic fields in particular holds immense potential for applications in drug delivery and neuro-modulation. Read More

Theoretical analysis, which maps single molecule time trajectories of a molecular motor onto unicyclic Markov processes, allows us to evaluate the heat dissipated from the motor and to elucidate its dependence on the mean velocity and diffusivity. Unlike passive Brownian particles in equilibrium, the velocity and diffusion constant of molecular motors are closely inter-related to each other. In particular, our study makes it clear that the increase of diffusivity with the heat production is a natural outcome of active particles, which is reminiscent of the recent experimental premise that the diffusion of an exothermic enzyme is enhanced by the heat released from its own catalytic turnover. Read More

Using a microfluidic trap, we study the behavior of individual phospholipid vesicles in contact with fatty acids. We show that spontaneous fatty acids insertion inside the bilayer is controlled by the vesicle size, osmotic pressure difference across the membrane and fatty acids concentration in the external bath. Depending on these parameters, vesicles can grow spherically or become unstable and fragment into several daughter vesicles. Read More

This article presents an algorithm for the evaluation of organelles' movements inside of an unmodified live cell. We used a time-lapse image series obtained using wide-field bright-field photon transmission microscopy as an algorithm input. The benefit of the algorithm is the application of the R\'enyi information entropy, namely a variable called a point information gain, which enables to highlight the borders of the intracellular organelles and to localize the organelles' centers of mass with the precision of one pixel. Read More

In a previous paper, we examined a class of possible conformations for helically patterned filaments in contact with a bonding surface. In particular, we investigated geometries where contact between the pattern and the surface was improved through a periodic twisting and lifting of the filament. A consequence of this lifting is that the total length of the filament projected onto the surface decreases after bonding. Read More

We report an experimental study of the influences of the fixed charge and bulk ionic concentrations on the conduction of biological ion channels, and we consider the results within the framework of the ionic Coulomb blockade model of permeation and selectivity. Voltage clamp recordings were used to investigate the Na$^+$/Ca$^{2+}$ anomalous mole fraction effect (AMFE) exhibited by the bacterial sodium channel NaChBac and its mutants. Site-directed mutagenesis was used to study the effect of either increasing or decreasing the fixed charge in their selectivity filters for comparison with the predictions of the Coulomb blockade model. Read More

The principal pacemaker of the circadian clock of the cyanobacterium S. elongatus is a protein phosphorylation cycle consisting of three proteins, KaiA, KaiB and KaiC. KaiC forms a homohexamer, with each monomer consisting of two domains, CI and CII. Read More

Recently the physical characterization of a number of biological processes has proven indispensable for a full understanding of natural phenomena. One such example is the mechanical properties of transcription, which have been shown to have significant effects in gene expression. In this letter we introduce a simple description of the basic physical elements of transcription where RNA elongation, RNA polymerase rotation and DNA supercoiling are coupled. Read More

Gene expression is a noisy process that leads to regime shift between alternative steady states among individual living cells, inducing phenotypic variability. The effects of white noise on the regime shift in bistable systems have been well characterized, however little is known about such effects of colored noise (noise with non-zero correlation time). Here, we show that noise correlation time, by considering a genetic circuit of autoactivation, can have significant effect on the regime shift in gene expression. Read More

It is well known that many biochemical processes in the cell such as gene regulation, growth signals and activation of ion channels, rely on mechanical stimuli. However, the mechanism by which mechanical signals propagate through cells is not as well understood. In this review we focus on stress propagation in a minimal model for cell elasticity, actomyosin networks, which are comprised of a sub-family of cytoskeleton proteins. Read More

Self-assembly of protein monomers into distinct membrane protein oligomers provides a general mechanism for diversity in the molecular architectures, and resulting biological functions, of membrane proteins. We develop a general physical framework describing the thermodynamic competition between different oligomeric states of membrane proteins. Using the mechanosensitive channel of large conductance as a model system, we show how the dominant oligomeric states of membrane proteins emerge from the interplay of protein concentration in the cell membrane, protein-induced lipid bilayer deformations, and direct monomer-monomer interactions. Read More

Studies on the role of fluctuations in signal propagation and on gene regulation in monoclonal bacterial population have been extensively pursued based on the machinery of two-component system. The bacterial two-component system shows noise utilisation through its inherent plasticity. The fluctuations propagation takes place using the phosphotransfer module and the feedback mechanism during gene regulation. Read More

The spindle checkpoint assembly (SAC) ensures genome fidelity by temporarily delaying anaphase onset, until all chromosomes are properly attached to the mitotic spindle. The SAC delays mitotic progression by preventing activation of the ubiquitin ligase anaphase-promoting complex (APC/C) or cyclosome; whose activation by Cdc20 is required for sister-chromatid separation marking the transition into anaphase. The mitotic checkpoint complex (MCC), which contains Cdc20 as a subunit, binds stably to the APC/C. Read More

Sensors are the first element of the pathways that control the response of cells to their environment. After chemical, the next most important cue is mechanical, and protein complexes that produce or enable a chemical signal in response to a mechanical stimulus are called mechanosensors. There is a sharp distinction between sensing an external force or pressure/tension applied to the cell, and sensing the mechanical stiffness of the environment. Read More

Reproduction and natural selection are the key elements of life. In order to reproduce, the genetic material must be doubled, separated and placed into two new daughter cells, each containing a complete set of chromosomes and organelles. In mitosis, transition from one process to the next is guided by intricate surveillance mechanisms, known as the mitotic checkpoints. Read More

We recall the perturbation expansion for Michaelis-Menten kinetics, beyond the standard quasi-steady-state approximation (sQSSA). Against this background, we are able to appropriately apply the alternative approach to the study of singularly perturbed differential equations that is based on the renormalization group (SPDERG), by clarifying similarities and differences. In the present demanding situation, we directly renormalize the bare initial condition value for the substrate. Read More

Genetic stability is a key factor in maintaining, survival and reproduction of biological cells. It relies on many processes, but one of the most important is a {\it homologous recombination}, in which the repair of breaks in double-stranded DNA molecules is taking place with a help of several specific proteins. In bacteria this task is accomplished by RecA proteins that are active as nucleoprotein filaments formed on single-stranded segments of DNA. Read More

Dynamic instability of microtubules is considered using frameworks of non-linear thermodynamics and non-equilibrium reaction-diffusion systems. Stochastic assembly/disassembly phases in the polymerization dynamics of microtubules are treated as a result of collective clusterization of microdefects (holes in structure). The model explains experimentally observed power law dependence of catastrophe frequency from the microtubule growth rate. Read More

Based on a detailed crossbridge model for individual myosin II motors, we systematically study the influence of mechanical load and adenosine triphosphate (ATP) concentration on small myosin II ensembles made from different isoforms. For skeletal and smooth muscle myosin II, which are often used in actomyosin gels that reconstitute cell contractility, fast forward movement is restricted to a small region of phase space with low mechanical load and high ATP concentration, which is also characterized by frequent ensemble detachment. At high load, these ensembles are stalled or move backwards, but forward motion can be restored by decreasing ATP concentration. Read More

Experiments have revealed that membrane proteins can form two-dimensional clusters with regular translational and orientational protein arrangements, which may allow cells to modulate protein function. However, the physical mechanisms yielding supramolecular organization and collective function of membrane proteins remain largely unknown. Here we show that bilayer-mediated elastic interactions between membrane proteins can yield regular and distinctive lattice architectures of protein clusters, and may provide a link between lattice architecture and lattice function. Read More

Membrane proteins deform the surrounding lipid bilayer, which can lead to membrane-mediated interactions between neighboring proteins. Using the mechanosensitive channel of large conductance (MscL) as a model system, we demonstrate how the observed differences in protein structure can affect membrane-mediated interactions and cooperativity among membrane proteins. We find that distinct oligomeric states of MscL lead to distinct gateway states for the clustering of MscL, and predict signatures of MscL structure and spatial organization in the cooperative gating of MscL. Read More

Reconstruction of neuroanatomy is a fundamental problem in neuroscience. Stochastic expression of colors in individual cells is a promising tool, although its use in the nervous system has been limited due to various sources of variability in expression. Moreover, the intermingled anatomy of neuronal trees is challenging for existing segmentation algorithms. Read More

The fast blood stream of animals is associated with large shear stresses. Consequently, blood cells have evolved a special morphology and a specific internal architecture allowing them to maintain their integrity over several weeks. For instance, non-mammalian red blood cells, mammalian erythroblasts and platelets have a peripheral ring of microtubules, called the marginal band, that flattens the overall cell morphology by pushing on the cell cortex. Read More

Microtubule asters - radial arrays of microtubules organized by centrosomes - play a fundamental role in the spatial coordination of animal cells. The standard model of aster growth assumes a fixed number of microtubules originating from the centrosomes. However, aster morphology in this model does not scale with cell size, and we recently found evidence for non-centrosomal microtubule nucleation. Read More

Affiliations: 1Peking University, Beijing, 2Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, 3Peking University, Beijing, 4University of Washington, Seattle, 5Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, 6Peking University, Beijing

The living cell is an open nonequilibrium biochemical system, where ATP hydrolysis serves as the energy source for a wide range of intracellular processes including the assurance for decision-making. In the fission yeast cell cycle, the transition from G2 phase to M phase is triggered by the activation of Cdc13/Cdc2 and Cdc25, and the deactivation of Wee1. Each of these three events involves a phosphorylation-dephosphorylation (PdP) cycle, and together they form a regulatory circuit with feedback loops. Read More

Motivated by single-molecule experiments on synaptic membrane protein domains, we use a stochastic lattice model to study protein reaction and diffusion processes in crowded membranes. We find that the stochastic reaction-diffusion dynamics of synaptic proteins provide a simple physical mechanism for collective fluctuations in synaptic domains, the molecular turnover observed at synaptic domains, key features of the single-molecule trajectories observed for synaptic proteins, and spatially inhomogeneous protein lifetimes at the cell membrane. Our results suggest that central aspects of the single-molecule and collective dynamics observed for membrane protein domains can be understood in terms of stochastic reaction-diffusion processes at the cell membrane. Read More

ATP-driven proton pumps, which are critical to the operation of a cell, maintain cytosolic and organellar pH levels within a narrow functional range. These pumps employ two very different mechanisms: an elaborate rotary mechanism used by V-ATPase H+ pumps, and a simpler alternating access mechanism used by P-ATPase H+ pumps. Why are two different mechanisms used to perform the same function? Systematic analysis, without parameter fitting, of kinetic models of the rotary, alternating access and other possible mechanisms suggest that, when the ratio of protons transported per ATP hydrolyzed exceeds one, the one-at-a-time proton transport by the rotary mechanism is faster than other possible mechanisms across a wide range of driving conditions. Read More

We develop a theoretical framework on the mechanism of combinatorial binding of transcription factors (TFs) with their specific binding sites on DNA. We consider three possible mechanisms viz. monomer, hetero-oligomer and coordinated recruitment pathways. Read More

The spatiotemporal oscillation patterns of the proteins MinD and MinE are used by the bacterium E. coli to sense its own geometry. Strikingly, both computer simulations and experiments have recently shown that for the same geometry of the reaction volume, different oscillation patterns can be stable, with stochastic switching between them. Read More

A microtubule (MT) is a tubular stiff filament formed by a hierarchical organization of tubulin proteins. We develop a stochastic kinetic model for studying the strength and stability of a pre-formed attachment of a MT with a rigid wall where the MT is tethered to the wall by a group of motor proteins. Such an attachment, formed by the specific interactions between the MT and the motors, is an analog of ligand-receptor bonds, the MT and the motors anchored on the wall being the counterparts of the ligand and receptors, respectively. Read More

Reliable in-silico design of synthetic gene networks necessitates novel approaches to model the process of protein synthesis under the influence of limited resources. We present such a novel protein synthesis model which originates from the Ribosome Flow Model and among other things describes the movement of RNA-polymerase and Ribosomes on mRNA and DNA templates respectively. By analyzing the convergence properties of this model based upon geometric considerations we present additional insights into the dynamic mechanisms of the process of protein synthesis. Read More

In order to better understand the process of gene translation, the ribosome flow model (RFM) with pool was introduced recently. This model describes the movement of several ribosomes along an mRNA template and simultaneously captures the dynamics of the finite pool of ribosomes. Studying this system with respect to the number and stability of its equilibria was so far based on monotone systems theory (Margaliot and Tuller, 2012). Read More

We analyze the governing partial differential equations of a model of pole-to-pole oscillations of the MinD protein in a bacterial cell. The sensitivity to extrinsic noise in the parameters of the model is explored. Our analysis shows that overall, the oscillations are robust to extrinsic perturbations in the sense that small perturbations in reaction coefficients result in small differences in the frequency and in the amplitude. Read More

Microtubule-based molecular motors often work in small groups to transport cargos in cells. A key question in understanding transport (and its regulation in vivo) is to identify the sensitivity of multiple-motor-based motion to various single molecule properties. Whereas both single-motor travel distance and microtubule binding rate have been demonstrated to contribute to cargo travel, the role of single-motor velocity is yet to be explored. Read More

Although the disease-relevant microtubule-associated protein tau is known to severely inhibit kinesin-based transport in vitro, the potential mechanisms for reversing this detrimental effect to maintain healthy transport in cells remain unknown. Here we report the unambiguous upregulation of multiple-kinesin travel distance despite the presence of tau, via decreased single-kinesin velocity. Interestingly, the presence of tau also modestly reduced cargo velocity in multiple-kinesin transport, and our stochastic simulations indicate that the tau-mediated reduction in single-kinesin travel underlies this observation. Read More

Microtubules are protein polymers that form "molecular highways" for long-range transport within living cells. Molecular motors actively step along microtubules to shuttle cellular materials between the nucleus and the cell periphery; this transport is critical for the survival and health of all eukaryotic cells. Structural defects in microtubules exist, but whether these defects impact molecular motor-based transport remains unknown. Read More

With their longest dimension typically being less than 100 nm, molecular motors are significantly below the optical-resolution limit. Despite substantial advances in fluorescence-based imaging methodologies, labeling with beads remains critical for optical-trapping-based investigations of molecular motors. A key experimental challenge in bead-based assays is that the number of motors on a bead is not well defined. Read More

When subcellular organelles are degraded by autophagy, typically some, but not all, of each targeted organelle type are degraded. Autophagy selectivity must not only select the correct type of organelle, but must discriminate between individual organelles of the same kind. In the context of peroxisomes, we use computational models to explore the hypothesis that physical clustering of autophagy receptor proteins on the surface of each organelle provides an appropriate all-or-none signal for degradation. Read More

Within living cells, the transport of cargo is accomplished by groups of molecular motors. Such collective transport could utilize mechanisms which emerge from inter-motor interactions in ways that are yet to be fully understood. Here we combined experimental measurements of two-kinesin transport with a theoretical framework to investigate the functional ramifications of inter-motor interactions on individual motor function and collective cargo transport. Read More

In order to model ion transport across protocell membranes in Hadean hydrothermal vents, we consider both theoretically and experimentally the planar growth of a precipitate membrane formed at the interface between two parallel fluid streams in a two-dimensional microfluidic reactor. The growth rate of the precipitate is found to be proportional to the square root of time, which is characteristic of diffusive transport. However, the dependence of the growth rate on the concentrations of hydroxide and metal ions is approximately linear and quadratic, respectively. Read More

Many chemical reactions in biological cells occur at very low concentrations of constituent molecules. Thus, transcriptional gene-regulation is often controlled by poorly expressed transcription-factors, such as E.coli lac repressor with few tens of copies. Read More

Gene expression is inherently a noisy process which manifests as cell-to-cell variability in time evolution of proteins. Consequently, events that trigger at critical threshold levels of regulatory proteins exhibit stochasticity in their timing. An important contributor to the noise in gene expression is translation bursts which correspond to randomness in number of proteins produced in a single mRNA lifetime. Read More