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Dinámica de circuitos de regulación genética en bacterias

María Lorena Espinar Calvo, Presentation date: December 21, 2012

Author: Maria Lorena Espinar
Title: Dinámica de circuitos de regulación genética en bacterias
Director: J. García-Ojalvo
Presentation date: December 21, 2012
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Abstract: The aim of this Thesis is the study of different dynamic cellular behaviors in Escherichia coli and Bacillus subtilis. It is interesting to understand how these simple organisms have not so simple mechanisms to respond to their environment. This response is regulated by complex regulatory networks consisting of genes and proteins, where as instrumentalists in an orchestra, each element of the network should operates in harmony, at the right time and the right amount to give an appropriate cellular response. Part I introduces basic aspects of the methodology and concepts for the understanding of the results presented in this Thesis. Chapter 1 provides a brief introduction to genetic regulatory circuits and the fluorescent proteins used for the study of the dynamics of such circuits in vivo and in individual cells. Chapter 2 describes the materials and techniques used, from growing and obtaining bacterial strains, to the methodology used for filming these strains by temporalized fluorescence microscopy, and to the analysis of the obtained images. Chapter 3 describes the main features of the dynamical biological processes studied in E. coli and B. subtilis. Chapter 4 refers to certain aspects of cellular dynamics such as oscillatory or excitable behavior of some biological systems, as well as the mathematical tools used to compare the data obtained experimentally. Part II corresponds to the results. Chapter 5 describes the results of the study of the control of chromosome replication initiation in E. coli. We implemented a set of perturbations in the main proteins that regulate this process, and their effect on the initiation of replication, quantified by analyzing the images obtained by fluorescence microscopy, comparing the results with a control strain. Chapter 6 describes the results obtained from the study of how a genetic circuit in B. subtilis, namely the one regulating competence, integrates multiple simultaneous inputs. We characterized experimentally the response of individual cells in vivo to different chemical signals that control the strength of the constitutive expression of genes forming the circuit, in addition to the copy number variation of one of these genes. The results were compared with a bifurcation analysis of the mathematical model of the circuit. Chapter 7 describes the results obtained in a study of the decision making process of microorganism B. subtilis. Specifically, we studied the decision of these bacteria between two differentiation programs such as genetic competence and sporulation, which compete with each other in time. The simultaneous analysis in individual cells of both programs allowed us to uncover the way in which bacteria choose between these two competing programs, showing that the competition occurs through a molecular race. Finally, Chapter 8 describes the results obtained in the study of reversible progression towards an all-or-none switch in the sporulation of B. subtilis. We quantitatively analyzed the expression of genes involved in the progression towards spore formation and a population model was developed to study the effect of reversibility in the process of cellular adaptation to changes in stress levels. Part III details the conclusions and a description of the possible future perspectives for each of the results described in Part II. The results obtained contribute to the understanding of certain dynamic behaviors in the microorganisms E. coli and B. subtilis. These bacteria, although simple when compared with higher organisms, offer the possibility of studying mechanisms that are frequently utilized by more complex systems, which require more sophisticated analysis techniques. The study at the single cell level of network dynamics of gene regulation by the techniques used in this Thesis, allows the analysis in vivo and in real time of the underlying dynamic of such networks inside cells in response to the cell environment.