A cellular riddle

It takes 38 minutes for the E.coli genome to replicate. Yet, E.coli can bo coaxed to divide in a much shorter time: 20 minutes. How is this possible?

Larry poses the riddle and provides the solution.

The key is that complex biochemical processes are taught sequentially, one by one, because that is how we think and process information. Yet, unless there is a need for precise timing (in which case there will be a timer triggering the starts and ends of cellular events), most processes occur all the time, simultaneously, in parallel. How do we teach that?

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Been there, done that. It is called "Fast Tracking". This means taking a stepwise process which should have the steps done in sequence, and doing all the steps similtaneously, rather than in sequence. The basic assumption is that all the steps will actually work.

By Jim Thomerson (not verified) on 11 May 2008 #permalink

A dozen or so years ago when I was taking the required biochemistry/molecular biology course in grad school, I drove the instructor nuts with my questions. She would give us all the players, all the enzymes, all the pathways, and even some of the ins/outs of energetics of the process. Then I'd ask how long it takes, is it in milliseconds, seconds, minutes or hours, how many molecules go through it at any given time, etc. In some rare cases she even knew or could guess at the answers. I am wondering if these days such questions are taken more seriously and if people study the dynamics more than they used to, or if the teaching is still limited to identifying the players and the sequence of events in a pathway.