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  1. Computational models of cells cannot be considered complete unless they include the most fundamental process of life, the replication and inheritance of genetic material. By creating a computational framework to model systems of replicating bacterial chromosomes as polymers at 10 bp resolution with Brownian dynamics, we investigate changes in chromosome organization during replication and extend the applicability of an existing whole-cell model (WCM) for a genetically minimal bacterium, JCVI-syn3A, to the entire cell-cycle. To achieve cell-scale chromosome structures that are realistic, we model the chromosome as a self-avoiding homopolymer with bending and torsional stiffnesses that capture the essential mechanical properties of dsDNA in Syn3A. In addition, the conformations of the circular DNA must avoid overlapping with ribosomes identitied in cryo-electron tomograms. While Syn3A lacks the complex regulatory systems known to orchestrate chromosome segregation in other bacteria, its minimized genome retains essential loop-extruding structural maintenance of chromosomes (SMC) protein complexes (SMC-scpAB) and topoisomerases. Through implementing the effects of these proteins in our simulations of replicating chromosomes, we find that they alone are sufficient for simultaneous chromosome segregation across all generations within nested theta structures. This supports previous studies suggesting loop-extrusion serves as a near-universal mechanism for chromosome organization within bacterial and eukaryotic cells. Furthermore, we analyze ribosome diffusion under the influence of the chromosome and calculatein silicochromosome contact maps that capture inter-daughter interactions. Finally, we present a methodology to map the polymer model of the chromosome to a Martini coarse-grained representation to prepare molecular dynamics models of entire Syn3A cells, which serves as an ultimate means of validation for cell states predicted by the WCM.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 9, 2024
  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 1, 2024
  3. The ultimate microscope, directed at a cell, would reveal the dynamics of all the cell’s components with atomic resolution. In contrast to their real-world counterparts, computational microscopes are currently on the brink of meeting this challenge. In this perspective, we show how an integrative approach can be employed to model an entire cell, the minimal cell, JCVI-syn3A, at full complexity. This step opens the way to interrogate the cell’s spatio-temporal evolution with molecular dynamics simulations, an approach that can be extended to other cell types in the near future. 
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  4. An integrated model illuminates the fate of marine carbonate biomineralizers in past, present, and future mass extinctions. 
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  5. null (Ed.)
    JCVI-syn3A is a genetically minimal bacterial cell, consisting of 493 genes and only a single 543 kbp circular chromosome. Syn3A’s genome and physical size are approximately one-tenth those of the model bacterial organism Escherichia coli ’s, and the corresponding reduction in complexity and scale provides a unique opportunity for whole-cell modeling. Previous work established genome-scale gene essentiality and proteomics data along with its essential metabolic network and a kinetic model of genetic information processing. In addition to that information, whole-cell, spatially-resolved kinetic models require cellular architecture, including spatial distributions of ribosomes and the circular chromosome’s configuration. We reconstruct cellular architectures of Syn3A cells at the single-cell level directly from cryo-electron tomograms, including the ribosome distributions. We present a method of generating self-avoiding circular chromosome configurations in a lattice model with a resolution of 11.8 bp per monomer on a 4 nm cubic lattice. Realizations of the chromosome configurations are constrained by the ribosomes and geometry reconstructed from the tomograms and include DNA loops suggested by experimental chromosome conformation capture (3C) maps. Using ensembles of simulated chromosome configurations we predict chromosome contact maps for Syn3A cells at resolutions of 250 bp and greater and compare them to the experimental maps. Additionally, the spatial distributions of ribosomes and the DNA-crowding resulting from the individual chromosome configurations can be used to identify macromolecular structures formed from ribosomes and DNA, such as polysomes and expressomes. 
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  6. null (Ed.)
    Crowdsourcing platforms are powerful tools for academic researchers. Proponents claim that crowdsourcing helps researchers quickly and affordably recruit enough human subjects with diverse backgrounds to generate significant statistical power, while critics raise concerns about unreliable data quality, labor exploitation, and unequal power dynamics between researchers and workers. We examine these concerns along three dimensions: methods, fairness, and politics. We find that researchers offer vastly different compensation rates for crowdsourced tasks, and address potential concerns about data validity by using platform-specific tools and user verification methods. Additionally, workers depend upon crowdsourcing platforms for a significant portion of their income, are motivated more by fear of losing access to work than by specific compensation rates, and are frustrated by a lack of transparency and occasional unfair treatment from job requesters. Finally, we discuss critical computing scholars’ proposals to address crowdsourcing’s problems, challenges with implementing these resolutions, and potential avenues for future research. 
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  7. null (Ed.)