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Computational Molecular Biology

An Introduction

Systems techniques are integral to current research in molecular cell biology, and system-level investigations are often accompanied by mathematical models. These models serve as working hypotheses: they help us to understand and predict the behavior of complex systems. This book offers an introduction to mathematical concepts and techniques needed for the construction and interpretation of models in molecular systems biology. It is accessible to upper-level undergraduate or graduate students in life science or engineering who have some familiarity with calculus, and will be a useful reference for researchers at all levels.

The first four chapters cover the basics of mathematical modeling in molecular systems biology. The last four chapters address specific biological domains, treating modeling of metabolic networks, of signal transduction pathways, of gene regulatory networks, and of electrophysiology and neuronal action potentials. Chapters 3–8 end with optional sections that address more specialized modeling topics. Exercises, solvable with pen-and-paper calculations, appear throughout the text to encourage interaction with the mathematical techniques. More involved end-of-chapter problem sets require computational software. Appendixes provide a review of basic concepts of molecular biology, additional mathematical background material, and tutorials for two computational software packages (XPPAUT and MATLAB) that can be used for model simulation and analysis.

Using the tools of information technology to understand the molecular machinery of the cell offers both challenges and opportunities to computational scientists. Over the past decade, novel algorithms have been developed both for analyzing biological data and for synthetic biology problems such as protein engineering. This book explains the algorithmic foundations and computational approaches underlying areas of structural biology including NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance); X-ray crystallography; and the design and analysis of proteins, peptides, and small molecules.

Each chapter offers a concise overview of important concepts, focusing on a key topic in the field. Four chapters offer a short course in algorithmic and computational issues related to NMR structural biology, giving the reader a useful toolkit with which to approach the fascinating yet thorny computational problems in this area. A recurrent theme is understanding the interplay between biophysical experiments and computational algorithms. The text emphasizes the mathematical foundations of structural biology while maintaining a balance between algorithms and a nuanced understanding of experimental data. Three emerging areas, particularly fertile ground for research students, are highlighted: NMR methodology, design of proteins and other molecules, and the modeling of protein flexibility.

The next generation of computational structural biologists will need training in geometric algorithms, provably good approximation algorithms, scientific computation, and an array of techniques for handling noise and uncertainty in combinatorial geometry and computational biophysics. This book is an essential guide for young scientists on their way to research success in this exciting field.

An Introduction to Molecular Biology

Recent research in molecular biology has produced a remarkably detailed understanding of how living things operate. Becoming conversant with the intricacies of molecular biology and its extensive technical vocabulary can be a challenge, though, as introductory materials often seem more like a barrier than an invitation to the study of life. This text offers a concise and accessible introduction to molecular biology, requiring no previous background in science, aimed at students and professionals in fields ranging from engineering to journalism--anyone who wants to get a foothold in this rapidly expanding field. It will be particularly useful for computer scientists exploring computational biology. A reader who has mastered the information in The Processes of Life is ready to move on to more complex material in almost any area of contemporary biology.

A Survey of Practical Models, Algorithms, and Numerical Methods

There are many excellent computational biology resources now available for learning about methods that have been developed to address specific biological systems, but comparatively little attention has been paid to training aspiring computational biologists to handle new and unanticipated problems. This text is intended to fill that gap by teaching students how to reason about developing formal mathematical models of biological systems that are amenable to computational analysis. It collects in one place a selection of broadly useful models, algorithms, and theoretical analysis tools normally found scattered among many other disciplines. It thereby gives studentshte tools that will serve them well in modeling problems drawn from numerous subfields of biology. These techniques are taught from the perspective of what the practitioner needs to know to use them effectively, supplemented with references for further reading on more advanced use of each method covered.

The text covers models for optimization, simulation and sampling, and parameter tuning. These topics provide a general framework for learning how to formulate mathematical models of biological systems, what techniques are available to work with these models, and how to fit the models to particular systems. Their application is illustrated by many examples drawn from a variety of biological disciplines and several extended case studies that show how the methods described have been applied to real problems in biology.