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Journal: BMC systems biology


Many groups, including our own, have proposed the use of DNA methylation profiles as biomarkers for various disease states. While much research has been done identifying DNA methylation signatures in cancer vs. normal etc., we still lack sufficient knowledge of the role that differential methylation plays during normal cellular differentiation and tissue specification. We also need thorough, genome level studies to determine the meaning of methylation of individual CpG dinucleotides in terms of gene expression.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Gene expression, Cancer, Organism, Cellular differentiation, DNA methylation


Over the last decade, the genome-scale metabolic models have been playing increasingly important roles in elucidating metabolic characteristics of biological systems for a wide range of applications including, but not limited to, system-wide identification of drug targets and production of high value biochemical compounds. However, these genome-scale metabolic models must be able to first predict known in vivo phenotypes before it is applied towards these applications with high confidence. One benchmark for measuring the in silico capability in predicting in vivo phenotypes is the use of single-gene mutant libraries to measure the accuracy of knockout simulations in predicting mutant growth phenotypes.

Concepts: Scientific method, Metabolism, Yeast, Model organism, Ascomycota, Schizosaccharomyces pombe, Yeasts, Schizosaccharomyces


BACKGROUND: Global demographic changes have stimulated marked interest in the process of ageing. There has been, and will continue to be, an unrelenting rise in the number of the oldest old ( >85 years of age). Together with an ageing population there comes an increase in the prevalence of age related disease. Of the diseases of ageing, cardiovascular disease (CVD) has by far the highest prevalence. It is regarded that a finely tuned lipid profile may help to prevent CVD as there is a long established relationship between alterations to lipid metabolism and CVD risk. In fact elevated plasma cholesterol, particularly Low Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol (LDL-C) has consistently stood out as a risk factor for having a cardiovascular event. Moreover it is widely acknowledged that LDL-C may rise with age in both sexes in a wide variety of groups. The aim of this work was to use a whole-body mathematical model to investigate why LDL-C rises with age, and to test the hypothesis that mechanistic changes to cholesterol absorption and LDL-C removal from the plasma are responsible for the rise. The whole-body mechanistic nature of the model differs from previous models of cholesterol metabolism which have either focused on intracellular cholesterol homeostasis or have concentrated on an isolated area of lipoprotein dynamics. The model integrates both current and previously published data relating to molecular biology, physiology, ageing and nutrition in an integrated fashion. RESULTS: The model was used to test the hypothesis that alterations to the rate of cholesterol absorption and changes to the rate of removal of LDL-C from the plasma are integral to understanding why LDL-C rises with age. The model demonstrates that increasing the rate of intestinal cholesterol absorption from 50% to 80% by age 65 years can result in an increase of LDL-C by as much as 34mg/dL in a hypothetical male subject. The model also shows that decreasing the rate of hepatic clearance of LDL-C gradually to 50% by age 65 years can result in an increase of LDL-C by as much as 116mg/dL. CONCLUSIONS: Our model clearly demonstrates that of the two putative mechanisms that have been implicated in the dysregulation of cholesterol metabolism with age, alterations to the removal rate of plasma LDL-C has the most significant impact on cholesterol metabolism and small changes to the number of hepatic LDL receptors can result in a significant rise in LDL-C. This first whole-body systems based model of cholesterol balance could potentially be used as a tool to further improve our understanding of whole-body cholesterol metabolism and its dysregulation with age. Furthermore, given further fine tuning the model may help to investigate potential dietary and lifestyle regimes that have the potential to mitigate the effects aging has on cholesterol metabolism.

Concepts: Cholesterol, Nutrition, Atherosclerosis, Cardiovascular disease, Low-density lipoprotein, Atheroma, Niacin, High-density lipoprotein


Reverse engineering gene networks and identifying regulatory interactions are integral to understanding cellular decision making processes. Advancement in high throughput experimental techniques has initiated innovative data driven analysis of gene regulatory networks. However, inherent noise associated with biological systems requires numerous experimental replicates for reliable conclusions. Furthermore, evidence of robust algorithms directly exploiting basic biological traits are few. Such algorithms are expected to be efficient in their performance and robust in their prediction.

Concepts: Algorithm, Decision making, Engineering, Feedback, Gene regulatory network, Systems biology, Discrete mathematics, Algorithmic efficiency


BACKGROUND: Experimental datasets are becoming larger and increasingly complex, spanning different data domains, thereby expanding the requirements for respective tool support for their analysis. Networks provide a basis for the integration, analysis and visualization of multi-omics experimental datasets. RESULTS: Here we present VANTED (version 2), a framework for systems biology applications, which comprises a comprehensive set of seven main tasks. These range from network reconstruction, data visualization, integration of various data types, network simulation to data exploration combined with a manifold support of systems biology standards for visualization and data exchange. The offered set of functionalities is instantiated by combining several tasks in order to enable users to view and explore a comprehensive dataset from different perspectives. We describe the system as well as an exemplary workflow. CONCLUSIONS: VANTED is a stand-alone framework which supports scientists during the data analysis and interpretation phase. It is available as a Java open source tool from

Concepts: Statistics, Mathematics, Data, Data set, Data analysis, Data mining, Open source, Real analysis


BACKGROUND: Signal transduction plays a fundamental role in the understanding of cellular physiology. The bacterialphosphotransferase system (PTS) together with the PEP/pyruvate node in central metabolism represents asignaling unit that acts as a sensory element and measures the activity of the central metabolism.Pseudomonas putida possesses two PTS branches, the C-branch (PTSFru) and a second branch (PTSNtr),which communicate with each other by phosphate exchange. Recent experimental results showed a cross talkbetween the two branches. However, the functional role of the crosstalk remains open. RESULTS: A mathematical model was set up to describe the available data of the state of phosphorylation of PtsN, one ofthe PTS proteins, for different environmental conditions and different strain variants. Additionally, data fromflux balance analysis was used to determine some of the kinetic parameters of the involved reactions. Based onthe calculated and estimated parameters, the flux distribution during growth of the wild type strain on fructosecould be determined. CONCLUSION: Our calculations show that during growth of the wild type strain on the PTS substrate fructose, the major partof the phosphoryl groups is provided by the second branch of the PTS. This theoretical finding indicates a newrole of the second branch of the PTS and will serve as a basis for further experimental studies.

Concepts: Signal transduction, Adenosine triphosphate, Enzyme, Mathematics, Phosphate, Cell signaling, Phosphorylation, Pseudomonas putida


Plasmodium is the causal parasite of malaria, infectious disease responsible for the death of up to one million people each year. Glycerophospholipid and consequently membrane biosynthesis are essential for the survival of the parasite and are targeted by a new class of antimalarial drugs developed in our lab. In order to understand the highly redundant phospholipid synthethic pathways and eventual mechanism of resistance to various drugs, an organism specific kinetic model of these metabolic pathways need to be developed in Plasmodium species.

Concepts: Infectious disease, Metabolism, Biology, Organism, Malaria, Plasmodium, Species, Plasmodium knowlesi


Kinase inhibition in the mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway is a standard therapy for cancer patients with activating BRAF mutations. However, the anti-tumorigenic effect and clinical benefit are only transient, and tumors are prone to treatment resistance and relapse. To elucidate mechanistic insights into drug resistance, we have established an in vitro cellular model of MAPK inhibitor resistance in malignant melanoma.

Concepts: DNA, Cancer, Metastasis, Oncology, Signal transduction, Enzyme inhibitor, Mitogen-activated protein kinase, Mitogen


BACKGROUND: Availability of oxygen and nutrients in the coronary circulation is a crucial determinant of cardiac performance. Nutrient composition of coronary blood may significantly vary in specific physiological and pathological conditions, for example, administration of special diets, long-term starvation, physical exercise or diabetes. Quantitative analysis of cardiac metabolism from a systems biology perspective may help to a better understanding of the relationship between nutrient supply and efficiency of metabolic processes required for an adequate cardiac output. RESULTS: Here we present CardioNet, the first large-scale reconstruction of the metabolic network of the human cardiomyocyte comprising 1793 metabolic reactions, including 560 transport processes in six compartments. We use flux-balance analysis to demonstrate the capability of the network to accomplish a set of 368 metabolic functions required for maintaining the structural and functional integrity of the cell. Taking the maintenance of ATP, biosynthesis of ceramide, cardiolipin and further important phospholipids as examples, we analyse how a changed supply of glucose, lactate, fatty acids and ketone bodies may influence the efficiency of these essential processes. CONCLUSIONS: CardioNet is a functionally validated metabolic network of the human cardiomyocyte that enables theorectical studies of cellular metabolic processes crucial for the accomplishment of an adequate cardiac output.

Concepts: Metabolism, Nutrition, Adenosine triphosphate, Fatty acid, Heart, Muscle, Vitamin, Metabolic pathway


Mathematical modeling is used as a Systems Biology tool to answer biological questions, and more precisely, to validate a network that describes biological observations and predict the effect of perturbations. This article presents an algorithm for modeling biological networks in a discrete framework with continuous time. BACKGROUND: There exist two major types of mathematical modeling approaches: (1) quantitative modeling, representing various chemical species concentrations by real numbers, mainly based on differential equations and chemical kinetics formalism; (2) and qualitative modeling, representing chemical species concentrations or activities by a finite set of discrete values. Both approaches answer particular (and often different) biological questions. Qualitative modeling approach permits a simple and less detailed description of the biological systems, efficiently describes stable state identification but remains inconvenient in describing the transient kinetics leading to these states. In this context, time is represented by discrete steps. Quantitative modeling, on the other hand, can describe more accurately the dynamical behavior of biological processes as it follows the evolution of concentration or activities of chemical species as a function of time, but requires an important amount of information on the parameters difficult to find in the literature. RESULTS: Here, we propose a modeling framework based on a qualitative approach that is intrinsically continuous in time. The algorithm presented in this article fills the gap between qualitative and quantitative modeling. It is based on continuous time Markov process applied on a Boolean state space. In order to describe the temporal evolution of the biological process we wish to model, we explicitly specify the transition rates for each node. For that purpose, we built a language that can be seen as a generalization of Boolean equations. Mathematically, this approach can be translated in a set of ordinary differential equations on probability distributions. We developed a C++ software, MaBoSS, that is able to simulate such a system by applying Kinetic Monte-Carlo (or Gillespie algorithm) on the Boolean state space. This software, parallelized and optimized, computes the temporal evolution of probability distributions and estimates stationary distributions. CONCLUSIONS: Applications of the Boolean Kinetic Monte-Carlo are demonstrated for three qualitative models: a toy model, a published model of p53/Mdm2 interaction and a published model of the mammalian cell cycle. Our approach allows to describe kinetic phenomena which were difficult to handle in the original models. In particular, transient effects are represented by time dependent probability distributions, interpretable in terms of cell populations.

Concepts: Mathematics, Qualitative research, Model, Differential equation, Markov chain, Quantitative research, Chemical kinetics, Continuous-time Markov process