We studied the interaction of two oscillators, the cell division cycle (CDC) and yeast metabolic cycle (YMC) in budding yeast. Previous work suggested that these cycles interact to separate high oxygen consumption from DNA replication to prevent genetic damage. To test this hypothesis, Tony Burnetti grew genetically diverse strains at a number of growth rates and measured DNA replication and oxygen consumption with high temporal resolution. His data showed that high oxygen consumption is not strictly separated from DNA replication; rather, cell cycle Start was coupled with the initiation of high oxygen consumption and catabolism of storage carbohydrates. The function of this YMC-CDC coupling may be to ensure that DNA replication and cell division occur only when sufficient cellular energy reserves have accumulated. More generally, our approach shows how studies in genetically diverse strains efficiently identify robust phenotypes and steer the experimentalist away from strain-specific idiosyncrasies.
Burnetti AJ, Aydin M, Buchler NE. Cell cycle Start is coupled to entry into the yeast metabolic cycle across diverse strains and growth rates. Mol. Biol. Cell 27: 64 (2016)
In theory, the unbinding rates of activators and repressors from DNA are presumed to be faster than gene expression. In practice, this assumption is not always true. Sargis Karapeytan analyzed two synthetic oscillators (activation-titration and repressor-titration) to understand the key parameters that are important for oscillations and for overcoming the molecular noise that arises from slow DNA unbinding. Counter-intuitively, our biophysical modeling and stochastic simulations showed that slow values of DNA unbinding rate stabilized the oscillators. We also show that multiple binding sites increase the robustness of oscillations due to the buffering of DNA unbinding events. This work demonstrates how the number of DNA binding sites and slow unbinding kinetics, which are often omitted in biophysical models of gene circuits, have a significant impact on the dynamics of synthetic oscillators.
Karapetyan S, Buchler NE. Role of DNA binding sites and slow unbinding kinetics in titration-based oscillators. Phys. Rev. E 92: 062712 (2015)
Sargis Karapetyan successfully defended his dissertation on “Design principles and coupling of biological oscillators”. Congratulations! Sargis is now a Physics Ph.D.
His committee was Joshua Socolar (Physics), Gleb Finkelstein (Physics), Berndt Mueller (Physics), Xinnian Dong (Biology), and Nicolas Buchler (Physics & Biology). Here’s a picture of Sargis with Armenian brandy (after the thesis).