O desafio imprevisto: a partir de genótipo-fenótipo em populações de células

segunda-feira, outubro 19, 2015

The unforeseen challenge: from genotype-to-phenotype in cell populations

Erez Braun

Published 26 February 2015 • © 2015 IOP Publishing Ltd • Reports on Progress in Physics, Volume 78, Number 3


Biological cells present a paradox, in that they show simultaneous stability and flexibility, allowing them to adapt to new environments and to evolve over time. The emergence of stable cell states depends on genotype-to-phenotype associations, which essentially reflect the organization of gene regulatory modes. The view taken here is that cell-state organization is a dynamical process in which the molecular disorder manifests itself in a macroscopic order. The genome does not determine the ordered cell state; rather, it participates in this process by providing a set of constraints on the spectrum of regulatory modes, analogous to boundary conditions in physical dynamical systems. We have developed an experimental framework, in which cell populations are exposed to unforeseen challenges; novel perturbations they had not encountered before along their evolutionary history. This approach allows an unbiased view of cell dynamics, uncovering the potential of cells to evolve and develop adapted stable states. In the last decade, our experiments have revealed a coherent set of observations within this framework, painting a picture of the living cell that in many ways is not aligned with the conventional one. Of particular importance here, is our finding that adaptation of cell-state organization is essentially an efficient exploratory dynamical process rather than one founded on random mutations. Based on our framework, a set of concepts underlying cell-state organization—exploration evolving by global, non-specific, dynamics of gene activity—is presented here. These concepts have significant consequences for our understanding of the emergence and stabilization of a cell phenotype in diverse biological contexts. Their implications are discussed for three major areas of biological inquiry: evolution, cell differentiation and cancer. There is currently no unified theoretical framework encompassing the emergence of order, a stable state, in the living cell. Hopefully, the integrated picture described here will provide a modest contribution towards a physics theory of the cell.

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