Howard Rowlee Lecture Series 2005

James P. Keener, Distinguished Professor: Mathematics, University of Utah will deliver the Howard Rowlee Lecture at 4:00 p.m., Thursday, April 14, 2005, in 115 Avery Hall. A reception will precede at 3:15P in 348 Avery Hall.

Cellular Measure Theory: How cells make measurements

Abstract: A fundamental problem of cell biology is to understand how cells make measurements and then make behavioral decisions in response to these measurements. The full answer to this question is not known but there are some underlining principles that are coming to light. The short answer is that the rate of molecular diffusion contains quantifiable information that can be transduced by biochemical feedback to give control over physical structures. This principle will be illustrated by two specific examples of how rates of molecular diffusion contain information that is used to make measurements and behavioral decisions.

Example 1: Bacterial populations of P. aeruginosa are known to make a decision to secrete polymer gel and become virulent on the basis of the size of the colony in which they live. This process is called quorum sensing and only recently has the mechanism for this been sorted out. It is now known that P. aeruginosa produces a chemical whose rate of diffusion out of the cell provides information about the size of the colony which when coupled with positive feedback gives rise to a hysteretic biochemical switch.

Example 2: Salmonella employ a mechanism that combines molecular diffusion with a negative feedback chemical network to "know" how long its flagella are. As a result, if a flagellum is cut off, it will regrow at the same rate with which it grew initially.

For more information, contact: Steve Cohn

James P. Keener