|computer model of e-coli
evolution of bacteria
Bioengineers used their computer model of E-coli (patent pending) to accurately predict
how the bacteria would evolve under specific conditions. The results may have applications for
designing tailor-made biological materials for commercial uses or for predicting the evolution
of drug- resistant bacteria.
“This is totally revolutionary —that you can actually predict the outcome of such
a complicated and intricate process as adaptive evolution,” says Bernhard Palsson, UCSD
Bioengineering Professor and study co-author with by UCSD Bioengineering Professor Jeff Hasty.
The study also serves as an example of the power of systems biology, a hot emerging field dedicated
to employing mathematics and computer simulation to understand how genes and proteins work together
to control the function of cells.
Palsson first created a computer model of E-coli in 2000, and since then has shown that the
model accurately mimics the behavior of the bacteria 80% of the time. Over the past two decades,
Palsson has been working at the enormous challenge of creating computer models of these biological
functions. He employs a technique he calls constraints-based modeling — basically describing
what a cell does not do in order to define what it can do through a process of elimination. To
date, Palsson has created in silico models of metabolism for E-coli, the red blood cell, H. influenzae,
H. pylori and yeast.
Researchers are beginning to build and test synthetic versions of control modules within the
circuitry of cells. For example, Hasty has developed a model of a positive feedback loop, in
which a gene produces a protein which in turn causes that gene to become more active. He says
as scientists begin to synthesize these simple network modules in the context of mathematical
models, it will set the stage for the controlling cellular function, which could have important
applications in nanotechnology and gene and cell therapy. Hasty's long-term goal is to build
synthetic genetic networks which could be inserted into a patient's cells to tightly regulate
the expression of a desired protein, or even to cause an undesirable cell to self-destruct. >from
Use Computer Model to Predict Evolution of Bacteria*, november 20, 2002.
> Worldwide E.coli
alliance. september 4, 2002