An excess or shortage of a particular protein can result in health problems such as a lack of insulin, resulting in diabetes. However, biological processes involved in protein production are highly complex and difficult to regulate. The FORMALBIO (Protein synthesis control by means of formal models) project conducted a detailed investigation into the mechanisms underlying protein synthesis in order to optimise their production. At the cellular level many biological systems comprise a large number of interacting elements. Therefore, scientists use mathematical models to understand the mechanisms underpinning biological systems. However, this can be difficult due to the limited availability of suitable data. To address this challenge FORMALBIO developed new mathematical tools known as flexible nets to help describe, analyse and control poorly characterised biological systems. Flexible nets provide a graphical representation of the system under investigation, containing data from multiple sources to describe a single system. Researchers designed several techniques for analysing and controlling biological systems that are described in terms of flexible nets. The focus was on the network of interactions involved in protein synthesis in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a species of yeast. These methods were tested against a well-studied system involving glucose consumption in yeast and a poorly understood system involving the accumulation of copper in individuals suffering from Wilson’s disease. The goal was to optimise recombinant protein synthesis in the organism by modelling the mechanism and analysing the resulting model. Increased knowledge will allow scientists to control the system behaviour and maximise the recombinant protein synthesis. FORMALBIO work will contribute to a better understanding of the biological processes conducted in the cell, thereby enabling the development of control techniques that not only optimise protein synthesis but can also reprogramme cell metabolism. This knowledge will eventually allow scientists to optimise the synthesis of recombinant proteins to enhance renewable and sustainable fuel production or for use such as in vaccines and diagnostic tools, and for therapeutic processes.
Protein synthesis, FORMALBIO, biological systems, flexible nets, recombinant protein