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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Aug 12;105(32):11340-5. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0805258105. Epub 2008 Aug 6.

Architecture and inherent robustness of a bacterial cell-cycle control system.

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Department of Electrical Engineering, 161 Packard Building, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.


A closed-loop control system drives progression of the coupled stalked and swarmer cell cycles of the bacterium Caulobacter crescentus in a near-mechanical step-like fashion. The cell-cycle control has a cyclical genetic circuit composed of four regulatory proteins with tight coupling to processive chromosome replication and cell division subsystems. We report a hybrid simulation of the coupled cell-cycle control system, including asymmetric cell division and responses to external starvation signals, that replicates mRNA and protein concentration patterns and is consistent with observed mutant phenotypes. An asynchronous sequential digital circuit model equivalent to the validated simulation model was created. Formal model-checking analysis of the digital circuit showed that the cell-cycle control is robust to intrinsic stochastic variations in reaction rates and nutrient supply, and that it reliably stops and restarts to accommodate nutrient starvation. Model checking also showed that mechanisms involving methylation-state changes in regulatory promoter regions during DNA replication increase the robustness of the cell-cycle control. The hybrid cell-cycle simulation implementation is inherently extensible and provides a promising approach for development of whole-cell behavioral models that can replicate the observed functionality of the cell and its responses to changing environmental conditions.

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