Perturbations of protein synthesis: from antibiotics to genetics and physiology

Kavcic B. 2020. Perturbations of protein synthesis: from antibiotics to genetics and physiology. IST Austria.

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Thesis | Published | English
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IST Austria Thesis
Synthesis of proteins – translation – is a fundamental process of life. Quantitative studies anchor translation into the context of bacterial physiology and reveal several mathematical relationships, called “growth laws,” which capture physiological feedbacks between protein synthesis and cell growth. Growth laws describe the dependency of the ribosome abundance as a function of growth rate, which can change depending on the growth conditions. Perturbations of translation reveal that bacteria employ a compensatory strategy in which the reduced translation capability results in increased expression of the translation machinery. Perturbations of translation are achieved in various ways; clinically interesting is the application of translation-targeting antibiotics – translation inhibitors. The antibiotic effects on bacterial physiology are often poorly understood. Bacterial responses to two or more simultaneously applied antibiotics are even more puzzling. The combined antibiotic effect determines the type of drug interaction, which ranges from synergy (the effect is stronger than expected) to antagonism (the effect is weaker) and suppression (one of the drugs loses its potency). In the first part of this work, we systematically measure the pairwise interaction network for translation inhibitors that interfere with different steps in translation. We find that the interactions are surprisingly diverse and tend to be more antagonistic. To explore the underlying mechanisms, we begin with a minimal biophysical model of combined antibiotic action. We base this model on the kinetics of antibiotic uptake and binding together with the physiological response described by the growth laws. The biophysical model explains some drug interactions, but not all; it specifically fails to predict suppression. In the second part of this work, we hypothesize that elusive suppressive drug interactions result from the interplay between ribosomes halted in different stages of translation. To elucidate this putative mechanism of drug interactions between translation inhibitors, we generate translation bottlenecks genetically using in- ducible control of translation factors that regulate well-defined translation cycle steps. These perturbations accurately mimic antibiotic action and drug interactions, supporting that the interplay of different translation bottlenecks partially causes these interactions. We extend this approach by varying two translation bottlenecks simultaneously. This approach reveals the suppression of translocation inhibition by inhibited translation. We rationalize this effect by modeling dense traffic of ribosomes that move on transcripts in a translation factor-mediated manner. This model predicts a dissolution of traffic jams caused by inhibited translocation when the density of ribosome traffic is reduced by lowered initiation. We base this model on the growth laws and quantitative relationships between different translation and growth parameters. In the final part of this work, we describe a set of tools aimed at quantification of physiological and translation parameters. We further develop a simple model that directly connects the abundance of a translation factor with the growth rate, which allows us to extract physiological parameters describing initiation. We demonstrate the development of tools for measuring translation rate. This thesis showcases how a combination of high-throughput growth rate mea- surements, genetics, and modeling can reveal mechanisms of drug interactions. Furthermore, by a gradual transition from combinations of antibiotics to precise genetic interventions, we demonstrated the equivalency between genetic and chemi- cal perturbations of translation. These findings tile the path for quantitative studies of antibiotic combinations and illustrate future approaches towards the quantitative description of translation.
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I thank Life Science Facilities for their continuous support with providing top-notch laboratory materials, keeping the devices humming, and coordinating the repairs and building of custom-designed laboratory equipment with the MIBA Machine shop.

Cite this

Kavcic B. Perturbations of protein synthesis: from antibiotics to genetics and physiology. 2020. doi:10.15479/AT:ISTA:8657
Kavcic, B. (2020). Perturbations of protein synthesis: from antibiotics to genetics and physiology. IST Austria.
Kavcic, Bor. “Perturbations of Protein Synthesis: From Antibiotics to Genetics and Physiology.” IST Austria, 2020.
B. Kavcic, “Perturbations of protein synthesis: from antibiotics to genetics and physiology,” IST Austria, 2020.
Kavcic B. 2020. Perturbations of protein synthesis: from antibiotics to genetics and physiology. IST Austria.
Kavcic, Bor. Perturbations of Protein Synthesis: From Antibiotics to Genetics and Physiology. IST Austria, 2020, doi:10.15479/AT:ISTA:8657.
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