Thanks to biophysicists, statistics has reached the most intimate aspect of life – regulation of genes’ activity. Investigation on probabilistic aspects of molecular biology has been supported by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research and the INTAS Foundation.
Regulation of genes’ activity is one of the most important biological problems which has not been solved so far. A cell switches on and off its genes through multiple factors, which, if required, interact with certain sections of a chromosome or vice versa, leave them. While molecular biologists search for the mechanisms than ensure precise and uninterrupted control of genome’s activity, biophysics keep on saying that this is a statistical process, i.e., a probabilistic one, therefore, it cannot be absolutely precise. Specialists of the Engelgardt Institute of Molecular Biology (Russian Academy of Sciences) and the Faculty of Physics, Moscow State University, jointly with the colleagues from the Gumboldt University (Germany) have received equations that allow to assess statistically the regulatory factors/DNA interaction.
According to biophysicists’ opinion, molecules inside the cell move around as freely as in a drop of experimental solution: their concentrations go up and down slightly. Even an insignificant local change in molecule concentration capable of interaction with DNA may impact such interaction. Therefore, if two cells possessing an identical set of genes obviously differ from each other, they owe that to statistical deviations. It is impossible to measure the changes in concentration in experimental systems, therefore the researchers create mathematical models. In fact, these models are sometimes far from real ones (no infinite DNAs or DNAs all set by proteins exist in nature), but they help to evaluate the contribution of fortuity in the sanctum sanctorum of a cell - in regulation of genes’ work. The contribution is significant. Sometimes, due to statistical difference of concentration at the DNA section there may turn out to be eight to twelve regulatory molecules instead of ten. Sometimes, the value of hindrances reaches 17 percent.
Sergey Komarov | alfa
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