Andreas Hilfinger | Department of Chemical and Physical Sciences, University of Toronto Mississauga
Stochastic models in cell biology: how they fail and why we need them
Many biological processes in cells are complex yet sparsely characterized. Constructing mathematical models of such systems then often requires making many assumptions based on guesswork. Instead of ignoring or guessing unknown details in complex processes, I will present a theoretical framework to rigorously characterize stochastic fluctuations in incompletely specified systems. By specifying some features of a system while leaving everything else unspecified we established physical performance bounds for classes of intracellular processes. Additionally, we utilized our framework as an experimental data analysis tool. Exploiting naturally occurring cell-to-cell variability we could test specific hypotheses about gene expression showing that observed fluctuations contradict the majority of published models of stochastic gene expression.