This last August 11-14, systems biologists convened in beautiful Santa
Fe, New Mexico, for the Fourth
Annual q-bio Conference on Cellular Information Processing. The conference brought together a potent mix of theoretical and quantitative experimental biology across a wide range of topics. The full program and abstracts for each talk can be browsed on the conference’s Wiki
Highlighting the value of systems-level analysis, many of the talks revealed the functional importance of features of biological systems that may often be tempting to disregard:
- Thierry Emonet showed that noisein the chemotactic signaling pathways actually acts to help coordinatethe bacteria’s multiple flagella. (In fact, chemotaxis andbacterial swarming were popular topics. See also the talks by Jan
Liphardt, Ned Wingreen, Victor Sourjik, Bonnie Bassler, Christopher
Rao, and Yi Jiang).
- Talks by Anat Burger and Narendra Maheshri explored the ways thatnon-functional transcriptionfactor binding sites(sites that do not directly affect generegulation) can nonetheless have dramatic effects on the dynamics of
gene regulatory circuits.
- Debora Marks discussed her work showing that style=”font-weight: bold;”>saturation and competitionplay apotentially important role in determining the efficiency of siRNA and microRNA targetgene repression. (See also her recent work instyle=”font-style: italic;”>Molecular Systems Biology
et al. 2010
The conference also hosted several excellent talks on cell
cycle regulation — a classical model in systems biology research — including a closing lecture by James Ferrell and a talk by John Tyson
describing his detailed stochastic model of the eukaryotic cell cycle
(recently published in Molecular
Systems Biology,Barik et al. 2010). See also talks by Jan Skotheim, Silvia Santos, and Xiaojing Yang. Galit Lahav also provided some exciting insights into another extremely well-studied system — p53 signaling (see Loewer et al. 2010).
In addition, two researchers studying HIV1 provided some of the most thought-provoking presentations:
- Leor Weinberger proposed a way to treat HIV1 with a transmissibletherapeutic agent, and described both cell culture experimentsdemonstrating the ability of their agent to slow HIV1 propagation, andcomputational modeling showing how this agent could spread through the
- Alex Sigal used a combination of modeling and cell cultureexperiments to make a compelling case that direct cell-to-celltransmission of HIV1 may help maintain a low-level “smolderinginfection” during anti-retroviral drug treatment.
Naturally, these are just a few highlights from the conference, which hosted
many other excellent talks. Once again, we encourage you to browse the full program and abstracts on the conference’s
Barik D, Baumann WT, Paul MR, Novak B, Tyson JJ (2010) A model of yeast cell-cycle regulation based on multisite phosphorylation. Mol Syst Biol 6:405
Arvey A, Larsson E, Sander C, Leslie CS, Marks DS (2010) Target mRNA abundance dilutes microRNA and siRNA activity. Mol Syst Biol 6:363
Loewer A, Batchelor E, Gaglia G, Lahav G (2010) Basal Dynamics of p53 Reveal Transcriptionally Attenuated Pulses in Cycling Cells. Cell 142:89-100