RSB Directors Seminar: Understanding amino acid transport and homeostasis in mammalian cells through quantitative modelling

Homeostasis is one of the fundamental concepts in physiology. Despite remarkable progress in our molecular understanding of amino acid transport, metabolism and signalling, it remains unclear by what mechanisms cytosolic amino acid concentrations are maintained. Our work suggests that amino acid transporters are the primary determinants of intracellular amino acid levels. We show that a cell’s endowment with amino acid transporters can be deconvoluted experimentally and used this data to computationally simulate amino acid translocation across the plasma membrane. Transport simulation generates cytosolic amino acid concentrations that are close to those observed in vitro. Perturbations of the system are replicated in silico and can be applied to systems where only transcriptomic data are available. This work explains amino acid homeostasis at the systems-level, through a combination of secondary active transporters, functionally acting as loaders, harmonizers and controller transporters to generate a stable equilibrium of all amino acid concentrations.