Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Molecular middle managers make more decisions than bosses

Date:
April 4, 2010
Source:
Yale University
Summary:
Organisms are structured at the molecular level in ways similar to social hierarchies. In some, master genetic regulators call most of the shots, and in others most of life's activities are carried out by more egalitarian collaborations.

Scientists are finding that on a molecular level organisms often function like social institutions. Some employ a military-like chain of command while in others important decisions are made by genetic middle managers.

Organisms are structured at the molecular level in ways similar to social hierarchies. In some, master genetic regulators call most of the shots, and in others most of life's activities are carried out by more egalitarian collaborations.

Knowing these organizational rules will help us understand biological systems and our social interactions, argues Mark Gerstein, A L Williams professor of biomedical informatics, molecular biophysics and biochemistry, and computer science. He is the senior author of a paper on the subject published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Gerstein and postdoctoral associate Nitin Bhardwaj analyzed regulatory networks of five diverse species, from E. coli to human, and rearranged those systems into hierarchies with a number of broad levels, including "master regulators," "middle managers" and "workhorses." In most organisms, master regulators control the activity of middle managers, which in turn govern suites of workhorse genes that carry out instructions for making proteins.

As a general rule, the more complex the organism, the less autocratic and more democratic the biological networks appear to be, researchers report. In both biological systems and corporate structures, interactions between middle managers are often more critical to functioning than actions by bosses. "If my department chair takes another job, the emphasis of my lab might change, but it will survive," Gerstein said. "But if my systems administrator leaves, my lab dies."

In simpler organisms such as E. coli, there tends to be a simple chain of command in which regulatory genes act like generals, and subordinate molecules "downstream" follow a single superior's instructions. Gerstein calls these systems "autocratic." But in more complex organisms, most of these subordinate genes co-regulate biological activity, in a sense sharing information and collaborating in governance. Gerstein labels these systems "democratic." If they share some qualities of both they are deemed "intermediate."

The interactions in more democratic hierarchies lead to mutually supporting partnerships between regulators than in autocratic systems, where if one gene is inactivated, the system tends to collapse. This is why Gerstein and colleagues in earlier work found that when they knocked out a master regulating gene in a complex organism, the "effects were more global, but softer" than when a key middle manager gene in a simpler life form was inactivated, which led to the death of the organism.

"Regulators in more complex species demonstrate a highly collaborative nature. We believe that these are due to the size and complexity of these genomes," Gerstein said. For example, about 250 master regulators in yeast have 6000 potential targets, a ratio of about one to 25. In humans, 20,000 targets are regulated by about 2,000 genes, a ratio of one to 10.

The work was funded by the National Institutes of Health.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Yale University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Nitin Bhardwaj, Koon-Kiu Yan, and Mark B. Gerstein. Analysis of diverse regulatory networks in a hierarchical context shows consistent tendencies for collaboration in the middle levels. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2010; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0910867107

Cite This Page:

Yale University. "Molecular middle managers make more decisions than bosses." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 April 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100329152527.htm>.
Yale University. (2010, April 4). Molecular middle managers make more decisions than bosses. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100329152527.htm
Yale University. "Molecular middle managers make more decisions than bosses." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100329152527.htm (accessed October 22, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

CDC Revamps Ebola Guidelines After Criticism

CDC Revamps Ebola Guidelines After Criticism

Newsy (Oct. 21, 2014) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued new protocols for healthcare workers interacting with Ebola patients. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
WHO: Ebola Vaccine Trials to Start a in January

WHO: Ebola Vaccine Trials to Start a in January

AP (Oct. 21, 2014) Tens of thousands of doses of experimental Ebola vaccines could be available for "real-world" testing in West Africa as soon as January as long as they are deemed safe in soon to start trials, the World Health Organization said Tuesday. (Oct. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

Newsy (Oct. 21, 2014) A medical team has for the first time given a man the ability to walk again after transplanting cells from his brain onto his severed spinal cord. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
CDC Issues New Ebola Guidelines for Health Workers

CDC Issues New Ebola Guidelines for Health Workers

Reuters - US Online Video (Oct. 21, 2014) The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has set up new guidelines for health workers taking care of patients infected with Ebola. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins