Modelling the Role of Small RNAs in Gene Regulation

Nicholas Geard1, Janet Wiles2, The University of Queensland;, The University of Queensland

Recent advances in experimental methods for molecular biology have resulted in the generation of vast amounts of data about individual genes. The usefulness of this data is limited by a lack of understanding of the way these genes interact. An important tool for attempting to understand these interactions is computer modelling. One modelling approach is to treat gene regulatory networks as complex systems and use abstract models to generate theoretical insights into genetic processes. While these models lack some of the detail of more detailed, low-level models, they have the advantage of being amenable to statistical and dynamic analysis.

Current abstract models of gene regulatory networks, such as Random Boolean Networks, are based on an outdated understanding of the mechanisms of gene regulation, in which there is a unique mapping from gene to protein and regulatory control is implemented only at the transcriptional level. It has since been discovered that post-transcriptional events such as alternative splicing allow one gene to encode a variety of proteins and that RNA-mediated regulation allows a more flexible control system. It is likely that these differences contribute to the high level of phenotypic diversity and complexity in eukaryotic organisms.

This poster presents a novel approach to modelling gene regulatory networks that incorporates regulatory control by small RNA molecules.