A whole-cell computational model of Mycoplasma genitalium

9 Dec 2011

Markus Covert
Stanford University


A major challenge in the field of systems biology is to build a computational model of all the cellular processes in a living cell. A whole cell model will provide a better understanding of cellular physiology as well as multifaceted behaviors such as complex disease states. It may also serve as a predictive tool to guide cellular engineering and synthetic biology. I will describe our efforts to build a comprehensive model of the lifecycle of a single living cell that simulates all known gene functions. Our model system is Mycoplasma genitalium, the bacterium with the smallest known self-replicating genome. The model incorporates the cross talk between all of the cellular processes including metabolism, transcription, translation, replication, and cell division among others. To integrate these diverse processes, we have created a novel modeling approach that represents different biological functions as separate modules, each implemented with different mathematical representations. I will end with some discussion of what this model has been teaching us as we compare our simulations with in-house experiments.

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