Whole cell biophysical modeling of codon-tRNA competition reveals novel insights related to translation dynamics

Doron Levin, Tamir Tuller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The importance of mRNA translation models has been demonstrated across many fields of science and biotechnology. However, a whole cell model with codon resolution and biophysical dynamics is still lacking. We describe a whole cell model of translation for E. coli. The model simulates all major translation components in the cell: ribosomes, mRNAs and tRNAs. It also includes, for the first time, fundamental aspects of translation, such as competition for ribosomes and tRNAs at a codon resolution while considering tRNAs wobble interactions and tRNA recycling. The model uses parameters that are tightly inferred from large scale measurements of translation. Furthermore, we demonstrate a robust modelling approach which relies on state-of-the-art practices of translation modelling and also provides a framework for easy generalizations. This novel approach allows simulation of thousands of mRNAs that undergo translation in the same cell with common resources such as ribosomes and tRNAs in feasible time. Based on this model, we demonstrate, for the first time, the direct importance of competition for resources on translation and its accurate modelling. An effective supply-demand ratio (ESDR) measure, which is related to translation factors such as tRNAs, has been devised and utilized to show superior predictive power in complex scenarios of heterologous gene expression. The devised model is not only more accurate than the existing models, but, more importantly, provides a framework for analyzing complex whole cell translation problems and variables that haven't been explored before, making it important in various biomedical fields.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1008038
JournalPLoS Computational Biology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Modelling and Simulation
  • Ecology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics


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