Cellular Energetics

Coordinators: Amy Caudy, Dan Needleman, and Yuhai Tu

Scientific Advisors: Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz, Mike Lynch, and Rob Phillips

Living systems are out of equilibrium and nearly all cellular processes require a continual supply of energy. The renewed realization of the central role of cellular energetics in a variety of diseases has led to many recent, related cell biological studies. New synthetic biology approaches may help with sustainability and environmental issues, leading researchers to study cellular energetics with the goal of engineering improvements. The growing appreciation for how the bioenergetic costs of producing various cellular features has led to a framework for considering the evolutionary consequences of trait addition/modification. Advances in experimental techniques - particularly mass spectrometry, metabolic imaging, and microcalorimetry – now allow relevant, quantitative data to be obtained. Finally, recent breakthroughs in nonequilibrium thermodynamics have produced a variety of general results, inspiring hopes that they may have application to biology. These recent developments motivate bringing together researchers in cell biology, evolutionary biology, systems biology, medicine, biophysics and physics to focus on a set of distinct topics with clear goals:

1) Energy Production: Develop and test systems-level models of aerobic and anaerobic respiration, and photosynthesis.
2) Energy Consumption: Calculate and measure how much energy is consumed by various cellular processes.
3) Cellular Energetics and Cell Biology/Biophysics: Understand the relationship between cellular energetics and other cell biological and biophysics process, including how defects in cellular energetics can give rise to diseases (such as cancer and infertility).
4) Cellular Energetics and Evolution: Quantify the costs to the cell of adding various structural/metabolic features.
5) Nonequilibrium Thermodynamics of Cellular Energetics: Explore the relevance of recent advances in nonequilibrium thermodynamics to topics 1-4.