BTK-MCA/bionet.metabolic-reg

John Woods eanv20 at castle.ed.ac.uk
Tue Jun 15 03:14:03 EST 1993


smith-una at yale.edu (Una Smith) writes:

>John Wood's description of this mailing list sounds virtually identical
>to many of the long-running discussions in bionet.info-theory.  I suggest
>that the current subscribers join bionet.info-theory rather than creating
>yet another newsgroup.

Una,
	Could you say where exactly the similarity lies?  I am an avid
reader of bionet.info-theory & the only real similarity I can find is
that both this and our intended group have a mathematical bent.

Info-theory is a fairly esoteric subject, and were it not for the
lucidity of Tom Schneider et al. and the general temperament of the
group, would be completely beyond me, and I suspect many others from
my field.

However, there seems to be one point of contact as far as I can tell -
thermodynamics.  This is a subject so vast that it is quite possible
for both groups to touch on it without significant overlap --- it
is the most theoretical tip of our field at a level of sophistication
that would appear simple to most info-theory readers.

Let's take switching, for example.  A current thread on info-theory
talks about molecular switches using systems with variable discrete
states.  When BTK-MCA/metabolic-reg folk talk about switches, it is
usually a discussion about whole biochemical systems changing state,
with all the control implications that follow. Our switches can be
therefore interpreted on a metabolic or even physiological level and
only the most theoretical treatment would consider them in the context
of biological computing --- which looks, if my reading of info-theory
is correct, much more like their pigeon.


None of what follows is to be taken as any criticism of info-theory
--- you wouldn't expect a genetics book to contain more than a brief
discussion of mitochondrial function.

In general, BTK-MCA/metabolic-reg is much less theoretical --- a great
deal of experimental work now exists.  (Bibliography will be sent if
required - I'm just constructing one to put in our archive.)

BTK-MCA/metabolic-reg would seem to be much more concerned with the
behaviour of whole systems rather than individual components.  The
field of control analysis has explained the phenomenon of genetic
dominance (still regarded as a problem by too many) in terms of the
properties of individual enzymes.  It allows us to relate test-tube
measurements of such properties to whole systems and to predict system
behaviour.  It allows us to pinpoint sites for maximizing genetic or
pharmacological intervention (though it's an awful lot easier to
exclude sites from consideration :-)) It lays to rest the spectre of
the rate-limiting step which has disfigured so much biochemical
thinking.  It leads to new conclusions about the feasibility of
certain types of genetic engineering, as well as explaining many of
the observed phenomena.  It can lead to the discovery of new
signalling methods.  It has brought about a radical rethink about
oxidative phosphorylation.

In some ways, I wish my members had chosen to post their articles,
especially the numerous abstracts, on info-theory --- I feel sure that
would have increased our yes vote.  But I don't think annoying other
people is a good strategy and I would hate to see the integrity of
info-theory suffer.  

Should anybody have any queries about the field, please mail or post
--- we'll do our best to answer before the CFV finishes.

				...John
			
-- 
"
Forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit (Virgil)
[approx] Tr: The time may come when we will look back on these days and laugh
"



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