Systems Analysis of Chromosome Dynamics in Single Bacteria

Type of Award: Catalyst
Date Awarded: January 2007
Award End Date: December 2008
Amount Awarded: $ 200,000.00
PI(s): Philippe Cluzel, PhD, UChicago; John F. Marko, PhD, NU;

Abstract: The 20th century has seen systematic discovery and characterization of the molecules which are the building blocks of cells: DNA, proteins, and RNA. Thanks to recently completed genomic projects, one now has an extensive molecular-biological "parts list" for cells. The upcoming challenge for biology in the 21st century is to go beyond this exhaustive list and to understand how the parts work together as a whole to bring a cell to life. Our research project seeks to tackle this challenge through experiments on live single cells of the bacterium E. coli. We will study how the physical organization of the E. coli chromosome impacts the expression of the genetic information in a live cell. Our approach will be based on simultaneous measurement of time-space evolution of chromosome shape, and expression of chromosomal genes in single E. coli cells, using a combination of cutting-edge fluorescence visualization techniques. Since the organization of the chromosome is controlled by proteins which are synthesized according to instructions encoded into the DNA sequence on that same chromosome, our project seeks to understand an example of a feedback system common to all living cells: the coupled dynamics of chromosome structure and gene expression. We anticipate that lessons learned from our proposed studies in E. coli will guide future studies of gene expression dynamics in more complex cells.