(Building 223, DTU, Denmark, where CEN.PK was when Vijay did his PhD).
PE-2 and CEN.PK exchange pleasantries and share how their weekends were spent. PE-2 said that it has been super busy catching up the recent developments in the field of synthetic biology and artificial life as it is worried that mankind may eventually create synthetic life. To worry is a human trait but somehow this affliction has strook PE-2 out of the blue. The fear of not working is taking a toll on its sugar metabolism and it is affecting its health. Scientists have recently discovered that one’s mental health affects one’s well being. It does not have a nervous system but concerned that it will become history soon. Isn’t that rather bizarre, that I should be worrying, PE-2 says to itself. It meets CEN.PK whilst brooding over this issue.
PE:2: Several things came to my mind. I have been thinking about our history and I wondered when lineage separated in the evolutionary tree. What makes me an industrial (wild, hippie like) and you a laboratory strain. I grow on pretty much anything. In the wild I come across grapes and sugarcane and I am happy to consume them and for some reason, my metabolism -read Glycolytic patwhay is – attuned to make copious amounts of alcohol. Some people including Jure Piskur from Lund argued that it gave me an evolutionary advantage.
PE-2 learnt that Jure Piskur passed away in 2014. It is always sad to lose a life, but it knows very well that life is not immortal. Even, it will die after giving rise to 30 or so daughter cells.
CEN.PK: Yes, scientific discoveries are made at an alarming rate. Just read Nature and Science every week and you will see the best scientists vying together to publish something that has never been discovered or invented before. I remember when Vijay was a PhD student he has working on me. He found that a key protein called Hap4 when removed, makes me to produce alcohol even at low growth rates (as low as 0.08/h).
CEN.PK calculates very quickly the time it takes to produce a daughter cell (why not a son cell, it wonders. how much the humans have anthropomorphed me, talking to itself).
CEN.PK continues: I was pleasantly surprised how one protein could have such an effect over the entire proteome. An existential question shot through my bud scar (as I don’t have a brain, I cannot think). Is my behaviour dependent on the presenc or absence of one protein ? Why did I not mutate ? Of course microarray (it has become obsolete now and replaced by RNA Seq) results showed many genes up and down regulated and also some algorithms developed by Patil et al revealed the key metabolites that are affected because of the deletion of the HAP4 gene. Vijay got a JBC paper but in the end my growth rate was affected and my ability to prolong ethanol formation was no longer possible. Surprising enough, scientists from Delft over-expressed the same protein and they observed better respiration. Vijay’s friend SVB was just finishing his PhD on metabolomics with Nielsen. Nielsen had 35 PhD students and I used to wonder how he remembered all the projects. See, I am off the track. This is what nostalgia does to me, CEN.PK speaks wistfully.
PE-2: Back to evolution, it still bothers me how traits can be acquired over a few hundred generations. It is rather remarkable. I could not raise my children like that when I knew that my grand children and children will no longer be like me but perhaps stouter, taller with a faster metabolism. Caloric restriction and swimming in the culture medium helps the future generation to burn the excess fat and also to live longer. I must speak with my good old friend E.coli as evolution experiments have been done on it for 50,000 generations. Do I respond to selective pressure through mutation or mutation happens any way and I am being selected ? What does selection do ? Won’t they lose some qualities in us by choosing the best traits ? Wouldn’t we all become the same through selection ? See what the testing has done to students. I have more questions but I would rather wait as tomorrow is Monday and something new may come up.
CEN.PK: That is a good idea PE-2. I just learnt that Vijay went to SESC today to watch Bambafrika, a hiphop-jazz-samba. He has a YouTube channel where he regularly publishes the recording. I do not get to see it but I hope I will listen to it when he plays it on a computer while I am busy toiling away in a shaker, my head spinning at 200 rpm at 30 deg C.
Ate mais, PE-2
Au revoir, cheuss, Adieus, hi hi CEN
(PE-2 found these words on Google translate; it only speaks Brazilian Portuguese but perhaps it is enticing or even desiring CEN.PK ? we will have to wait and see).