Yonatan Savir

Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, United States

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Publications (9)72.08 Total impact

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    Yonatan Savir, Tsvi Tlusty
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    ABSTRACT: The ribosome is a complex molecular machine that, in order to synthesize proteins, has to decode mRNAs by pairing their codons with matching tRNAs. Decoding is a major determinant of fitness and requires accurate and fast selection of correct tRNAs among many similar competitors. However, it is unclear whether the modern ribosome, and in particular its large conformational changes during decoding, are the outcome of adaptation to its task as a decoder or the result of other constraints. Here, we derive the energy landscape that provides optimal discrimination between competing substrates and thereby optimal tRNA decoding. We show that the measured landscape of the prokaryotic ribosome is sculpted in this way. This model suggests that conformational changes of the ribosome and tRNA during decoding are means to obtain an optimal decoder. Our analysis puts forward a generic mechanism that may be utilized broadly by molecular recognition systems.
    Cell 04/2013; 153(2):471-9. · 31.96 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: Extracellular feedback is an abundant module of intercellular communication networks, yet a detailed understanding of its role is still lacking. Here, we study interactions between polyclonal activated T cells that are mediated by IL-2 extracellular feedback as a model system. RESULTS: Using mathematical modeling we show that extracellular feedback can give rise to opposite outcomes: competition or cooperation between interacting T cells, depending on their relative levels of activation. Furthermore, the outcome of the interaction also depends on the relative timing of activation of the cells. A critical time window exists after which a cell that has been more strongly activated nevertheless cannot exclude an inferior competitor. CONCLUSIONS: In a number of experimental studies of polyclonal T-cell systems, outcomes ranging from cooperation to competition as well as time dependent competition were observed. Our model suggests that extracellular feedback can contribute to these observed behaviors as it translates quantitative differences in T cells' activation strength and in their relative activation time into qualitatively different outcomes. We propose extracellular feedback as a general mechanism that can balance speed and accuracy -- choosing the most suitable responders out of a polyclonal population under the clock of an escalating threat.
    BMC Systems Biology 08/2012; 6(1):111. · 2.98 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The kinetic parameters of enzymes are key to understanding the rate and specificity of most biological processes. Although specific trends are frequently studied for individual enzymes, global trends are rarely addressed. We performed an analysis of k(cat) and K(M) values of several thousand enzymes collected from the literature. We found that the "average enzyme" exhibits a k(cat) of ~0 s(-1) and a k(cat)/K(M) of ~10(5) s(-1) M(-1), much below the diffusion limit and the characteristic textbook portrayal of kinetically superior enzymes. Why do most enzymes exhibit moderate catalytic efficiencies? Maximal rates may not evolve in cases where weaker selection pressures are expected. We find, for example, that enzymes operating in secondary metabolism are, on average, ~30-fold slower than those of central metabolism. We also find indications that the physicochemical properties of substrates affect the kinetic parameters. Specifically, low molecular mass and hydrophobicity appear to limit K(M) optimization. In accordance, substitution with phosphate, CoA, or other large modifiers considerably lowers the K(M) values of enzymes utilizing the substituted substrates. It therefore appears that both evolutionary selection pressures and physicochemical constraints shape the kinetic parameters of enzymes. It also seems likely that the catalytic efficiency of some enzymes toward their natural substrates could be increased in many cases by natural or laboratory evolution.
    Biochemistry 05/2011; 50(21):4402-10. · 3.38 Impact Factor
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    Yonatan Savir, Tsvi Tlusty
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    ABSTRACT: Homologous recombination facilitates the exchange of genetic material between homologous DNA molecules. This crucial process requires detecting a specific homologous DNA sequence within a huge variety of heterologous sequences. The detection is mediated by RecA in E. coli, or members of its superfamily in other organisms. Here, we examine how well the RecA-DNA interaction is adjusted to its task. By formulating the DNA recognition process as a signal detection problem, we find the optimal value of binding energy that maximizes the ability to detect homologous sequences. We show that the experimentally observed binding energy is nearly optimal. This implies that the RecA-induced deformation and the binding energetics are fine-tuned to ensure optimal sequence detection. Our analysis suggests a possible role for DNA extension by RecA, in which deformation enhances detection. The present signal detection approach provides a general recipe for testing the optimality of other molecular recognition systems.
    Molecular cell 11/2010; 40(3):388-96. · 14.61 Impact Factor
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    Yonatan Savir, Tsvi Tlusty
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    ABSTRACT: Numerous biological functions-such as enzymatic catalysis, the immune response system, and the DNA-protein regulatory network-rely on the ability of molecules to specifically recognize target molecules within a large pool of similar competitors in a noisy biochemical environment. Using the basic framework of signal detection theory, we treat the molecular recognition process as a signal detection problem and examine its overall performance. Thus, we evaluate the optimal properties of a molecular recognizer in the presence of competition and noise. Our analysis reveals that the optimal design undergoes a "phase transition" as the structural properties of the molecules and interaction energies between them vary. In one phase, the recognizer should be complementary in structure to its target (like a lock and a key), while in the other, conformational changes upon binding, which often accompany molecular recognition, enhance recognition quality. Using this framework, the abundance of conformational changes may be explained as a result of increasing the fitness of the recognizer. Furthermore, this analysis may be used in future design of artificial signal processing devices based on biomolecules. Comment: Bayesian detection, conformational changes, molecular recognition, specificity. http://www.weizmann.ac.il/complex/tlusty/papers/IEEE2008.pdf
    IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Signal Processing 07/2010; · 3.30 Impact Factor
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    Yonatan Savir, Elad Noor, Ron Milo, Tsvi Tlusty
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    ABSTRACT: Rubisco (D-ribulose 1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase), probably the most abundant protein in the biosphere, performs an essential part in the process of carbon fixation through photosynthesis, thus facilitating life on earth. Despite the significant effect that Rubisco has on the fitness of plants and other photosynthetic organisms, this enzyme is known to have a low catalytic rate and a tendency to confuse its substrate, carbon dioxide, with oxygen. This apparent inefficiency is puzzling and raises questions regarding the roles of evolution versus biochemical constraints in shaping Rubisco. Here we examine these questions by analyzing the measured kinetic parameters of Rubisco from various organisms living in various environments. The analysis presented here suggests that the evolution of Rubisco is confined to an effectively one-dimensional landscape, which is manifested in simple power law correlations between its kinetic parameters. Within this one-dimensional landscape, which may represent biochemical and structural constraints, Rubisco appears to be tuned to the intracellular environment in which it resides such that the net photosynthesis rate is nearly optimal. Our analysis indicates that the specificity of Rubisco is not the main determinant of its efficiency but rather the trade-off between the carboxylation velocity and CO(2) affinity. As a result, the presence of oxygen has only a moderate effect on the optimal performance of Rubisco, which is determined mostly by the local CO(2) concentration. Rubisco appears as an experimentally testable example for the evolution of proteins subject both to strong selection pressure and to biochemical constraints that strongly confine the evolutionary plasticity to a low-dimensional landscape.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 02/2010; 107(8):3475-80. · 9.81 Impact Factor
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    Y. Savir, T. Tlusty
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    ABSTRACT: Molecular recognition, which is essential in processing information in biological systems, takes place in a crowded noisy biochemical environment and requires the recognition of a specific target within a background of various similar competing molecules. We consider molecular recognition as a transmission of information via a noisy channel and use this analogy to gain insights on the optimal, or fittest, molecular recognizer. We focus on the optimal structural properties of the molecules such as flexibility and conformation. We show that conformational changes upon binding, which often occur during molecular recognition, may optimize the detection performance of the recognizer. We thus suggest a generic design principle termed dasiaconformational proofreadingpsila in which deformation enhances detection. We evaluate the optimal flexibility of the molecular recognizer, which is analogous to the stochasticity in a decision unit. In some scenarios, a flexible recognizer, i.e., a stochastic decision unit, performs better than a rigid, deterministic one. As a biological example, we discuss conformational changes during homologous recombination, the process of genetic exchange between two DNA strands.
    Information Sciences and Systems, 2009. CISS 2009. 43rd Annual Conference on; 04/2009
  • Cytokine 01/2009; 48(1):103-103. · 2.52 Impact Factor
  • Source
    Yonatan Savir, Tsvi Tlusty
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    ABSTRACT: To perform recognition, molecules must locate and specifically bind their targets within a noisy biochemical environment with many look-alikes. Molecular recognition processes, especially the induced-fit mechanism, are known to involve conformational changes. This raises a basic question: Does molecular recognition gain any advantage by such conformational changes? By introducing a simple statistical-mechanics approach, we study the effect of conformation and flexibility on the quality of recognition processes. Our model relates specificity to the conformation of the participant molecules and thus suggests a possible answer: Optimal specificity is achieved when the ligand is slightly off target; that is, a conformational mismatch between the ligand and its main target improves the selectivity of the process. This indicates that deformations upon binding serve as a conformational proofreading mechanism, which may be selected for via evolution.
    PLoS ONE 02/2007; 2(5):e468. · 3.53 Impact Factor