From Brains to Bacteria: Information Processing at the Single Cell Level

11/05/2021 - 3:30pm to 4:30pm
Speaker(s) / Presenter(s): 
Sima Setayeshgar (Indiana)
Type of Event (for grouping events):

Many biological processes can be understood in terms of the flow of information from an input to an output, from sensation to development to population dynamics. A possible hierarchy for understanding biological organization from the level of genes and proteins to organisms and ecosystems is inspired by computer engineering, with coupled biochemical networks constituting the computational hardware. As such, biochemical signaling networks – whereby an external or internal signal is converted to a response modulating a variety of cellular functions, from regulation of gene expression, generation of neuronal action potentials to modulation of cell motion, growth and death – constitute a fundamental level of information processing in biology.  The chemotaxis network and motor response in bacteria, which controls directed swimming motility in the presence of external chemical stimuli, has emerged as the quintessential cellular sensory module given its extensive biophysical, genetic, and biochemical characterization, a so-called “hydrogen atom” of signaling networks.  While single-celled bacteria and networks of neurons in the brain sit at opposite ends of the spectrum of biological complexity, given the commonality of sensory strategies across systems and scales, we use methods borrowed from computational neuroscience to establish systems level properties of the chemotaxis network.   I will describe these methods and discuss our recent work on the computational strategies they reveal. 



Host: Murthy