Systems biology is a biology-based interdisciplinary field of study that focuses on complex interactions within biological systems. It combines biology, computer science and systems sciences. The biological data that are produced in the lab are analysed by computational approaches, taking the complete biological system into account and not only individual parameters. Interactions between components in biological systems are analysed and how these interactions give rise to the function and behaviour of that system, for example, enzyme and metabolites in a metabolic pathway.
In this workshop the activity of an enzyme called ß-Galactosidase (ß-Gal) will be analysed. The enzyme in question is involved in the splitting of lactose into glucose and galactose. The reaction rate of enzymes that alter substrates in a specific way is influenced by parameters like the temperature and the pH of a system that speed up or slow down the enzymatic reaction. After a theoretical introduction, the students will make their first experience with the software CellDesignerTM and will work out their own computational model of the lactose-pathway. They will learn which biological data is needed to feed the model. This data will be generated by themselves in the laboratory. At the end of the day, they will be able to answer the following questions: Does the activity of ß-Gal depend on the temperature? Is it possible to model the activity of ß-Gal computationally?
Equipped with laptops and lab coats the high-school students have the opportunity to discover several research topics:
- The lactose pathway in the cell
- Lab activities to determine the Michaelis-Menten constant and the velocity rate of the enzyme-catalysed reaction
- Computational modelling of the temperature-dependent activity of the enzyme ß-Galactosidase with the software CellDesignerTM
More information can be found here.