All Systems Go
Some peculiar microorganisms are showing systems biology can color in what's missing from models of biochemical and cellular networks.
n April 22, 2006, Nitin Baliga, a microbiologist at the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle, was spending a lazy Saturday afternoon at home, when he noticed an enticing email in his inbox from his ISB collaborator Richard Bonneau. The subject line: "woooooohoooooo!"
Baliga's team had just constructed a new model that could predict the molecular-level responses of a free-living cell to genetic and environmental changes. That cell, however, was not Escherichia coli or yeast. It was the little-known archaeon Halobacterium salinarum, a tiny extremophile that thrives in highly saline lakes such as the Great Salt Lake and the Dead Sea.
The model was accurately predicting Halobacterium's dynamics at the genome scale. But could it predict new molecular-level responses to changes in environmental conditions not tested in the initial data used to construct the model? Yes, Bonneau had just found out, and he was so thrilled that he couldn't wait to share his findings—or finish his sentences.