Design Elements in the Regulation of Gene Expression

00:00 14-05-2005

The "Central Dogma" of molecular biology states that genes (encoded in the DNA) are transcribed into RNA, and this, in turn, is translated into proteins. Proteins are the building blocks for life, having numerous and varied roles within a cell, and among different cells. While some proteins are required throughout the cell's life, many others are required only under certain conditions, or only in cells of specific tissues. Indeed, they may be deleterious to the cell if they are present in the "wrong" circumstances. Hence, it is crucial that protein expression is a regulated process. In this I will survey some observations regarding the design and evolution of protein expression regulation. This process involves several different mechanisms, most prominent of which is the regulation of gene transcription via transcription factors. These are proteins which bind to the DNA, and by doing so, induce or inhibit the expression of nearby genes. In the first part of the talk I will discuss the DNA-elements to which transcription factors bind, surveying the differences in their design among prokaryotes, uni-cellular eukaryotes and multi-cellular eukaryotes. Using a fairly comprehensive map of such site in the baker's yeast S. Cerevisiae, and a comparison to genomes of other yeast species, I will try to provide some insight as to how these binding sites evolved. In the second part of the talk I will focus on metabolic proteins. Using a technique known as Flux Balance Analysis, I will explore possible constraints on protein expression. I will try to connect them to variation in expression among different yeast strains, and also to the conservation of gene sequence. My aim is for the talk to be self-contained, and no prior knowledge in biology will be assumed.

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