Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Bacteria don’t always work ‘just in time’

Scientists of the University Jena and the TU Ilmenau calculate optimal metabolic pathways in bacteria

‘Just in time’ – not only cars are being built according to this principle nowadays. Aircraft, mobile phones and computers are also produced following this method, in which all components are delivered exactly at the time when they are needed. This saves storage capacity and therefore cash. Hence it is supposed to be particularly efficient.

In nature – the byword for efficiency – production processes are also following the ‘just-in-time-principle’ as well – at least according to the scientific consensus until now. “Living beings just can’t afford to produce more substances than necessary. Only what is really necessary will be provided,” Prof. Dr. Christoph Kaleta of the Friedrich Schiller University Jena (Germany) says. In a project supported by the German Research Foundation, the Bioinformatician and his team wanted to find out how organisms succeed in producing exactly the right amount of protein that they need to be optimally adapted to the prevailing environmental conditions.

In doing so, Kaleta and his colleagues were in for a surprise: According to a report of the Jena scientists and their colleagues of the Ilmenau University of Technology in the Science Magazine ‘Nature Communications’, bacteria like for instance Escherichia coli don’t always work according to the ‘just in time’-principle at all (DOI: 10.1038/ncomms3243). This mode of production is – as in industrial processes too – very efficient, but it would also be risky; if the delivery of only one of the components would fail to materialize, the whole chain might be in danger of failing.

“When the bacterial cell can afford it, it deviates from the successive activation of the enzymes which is necessary for the production of proteins,” Kaleta explains the findings of his study. Depending on the level of demand for a certain protein, the production will be dynamically adapted. “If there is a rather low demand and if the production capacity of the cell is capable, all enzymes will be increased at the same time,” the Junior Professor for Theoretical Systems Biology says. Or, to return to the image of the industrial production of goods: all components are being produced at the same time. Only when the demand for protein is so high that the simultaneous production of all ‘components’ would overstrain the cell, are they being delivered ‘just in time‘.

For their study, the researchers applied methods which are otherwise used for the optimization of industrial processes. “Thereby we could prove that many bacteria indeed use those strategies for the optimal production of proteins which we postulated,” says Kaleta. In this way, technology was for once able to deliver the tools for a better understanding of nature, the 30 year old junior scientist smilingly stresses. “Usually it is the other way around and we often develop technology along the lines of the example of nature.”

Their work, the Jena Bioinformaticians are convinced, is not only interesting fundamental research; one day these findings will be useful in a very practical way. “It is easily conceivable to use it to fight pathogens,” Kaleta says. This is because during a process of infection the pathogens adapt very quickly to the situation in the host organism as well. “When it becomes clear which programme the metabolism of the pathogen is based upon, we can specifically look for points of vantage for new active substances that can stop the growth and proliferation of the pathogen.”

Original Publication:
Bartl M, Kötzing M, Schuster S, Li P, Kaleta C. Dynamic optimization identifies optimal programmes for pathway regulation in prokaryotes (2013), Nature Communications, DOI: 10.1038/ncomms3243
Prof. Dr. Christoph Kaleta
Research Group Theoretical Systems Biology
Friedrich Schiller University Jena
Leutragraben 1, D-07743 Jena
Phone: ++49 3641 949590
Email: christoph.kaleta[at]

Dr. Ute Schönfelder | idw
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Gene therapy shows promise for treating Niemann-Pick disease type C1
27.10.2016 | NIH/National Human Genome Research Institute

nachricht 'Neighbor maps' reveal the genome's 3-D shape
27.10.2016 | International School of Advanced Studies (SISSA)

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

How nanoscience will improve our health and lives in the coming years

27.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

OU-led team discovers rare, newborn tri-star system using ALMA

27.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

'Neighbor maps' reveal the genome's 3-D shape

27.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>