About this Research Topic
The cell is both the building block of life as well as the smallest structural and functional unit of the body. It is astonishing to observe how a single mammalian cell system, which possesses up to hundreds of thousands of complex molecular species, is able to produce, restore, maintain and integrate these molecules in a highly coordinated way. Keeping alive such a complex system is the task of a rich variety of specialized nano-tools (proteins and protein complexes such as epigenetic modifications), collectively and continuously regulating cellular function. It is still extremely difficult to comprehend how such a system emerges from a myriad of different molecule types that form enormous dynamic networks. Invoking local gene-by-gene feedback regulation circuits is out of scope for energy expenditure and physical constraints considerations (e.g. the human DNA is a 2 metres long molecule compressed into few microns space and not a freely accessible string). Notwithstanding that, we know that a governing principle should exist to make a cell act as a single integrated harmonic system.
The central question then becomes “What is this principle?”.
Our aim for this Research Topic is to provide hints for the development of a systemic and integrated understanding of “cellular life”, focusing on individuating emergent principles of temporal-spatial self-organization in gene-, protein- and metabolite-expression in a unified manner. Subtopics covered may include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Self-organization and folding/unfolding of chromatin
- Allosteric mechanisms in gene regulation
- Chromosome mapping
- Mechanical constraints in biological regulation
At this initial state of research, we expect that evidence will be mainly phenomenological and largely contingent, coming from different exemplar case studies. Nevertheless, such different avenues of research should share the need to interpret their findings in terms of universal system features like phase transition or degree of order (correlation) so as to contribute to a unified view of emerging ‘cellular life’.
Keywords: Self-organization, Chromatin Folding, Allosteric Mechanisms, Chromosome Mapping, Spatio-temporal Expression
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