‘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.”
Dr. Ute Schönfelder | idw
Making fuel out of thick air
08.12.2017 | DOE/Argonne National Laboratory
‘Spying’ on the hidden geometry of complex networks through machine intelligence
08.12.2017 | Technische Universität Dresden
The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.
Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...
With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong
Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...
An interdisciplinary group of researchers interfaced individual bacteria with a computer to build a hybrid bio-digital circuit - Study published in Nature Communications
Scientists at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) have managed to control the behavior of individual bacteria by connecting them to a...
Physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (run jointly by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics) have developed an attosecond electron microscope that allows them to visualize the dispersion of light in time and space, and observe the motions of electrons in atoms.
The most basic of all physical interactions in nature is that between light and matter. This interaction takes place in attosecond times (i.e. billionths of a...
Transistors based on carbon nanostructures: what sounds like a futuristic dream could be reality in just a few years' time. An international research team working with Empa has now succeeded in producing nanotransistors from graphene ribbons that are only a few atoms wide, as reported in the current issue of the trade journal "Nature Communications."
Graphene ribbons that are only a few atoms wide, so-called graphene nanoribbons, have special electrical properties that make them promising candidates for the...
08.12.2017 | Event News
07.12.2017 | Event News
05.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Life Sciences
08.12.2017 | Information Technology
08.12.2017 | Information Technology