Motivation: Mathematical modelling is central to systems and synthetic biology. Using simulations to calculate statistics or to explore parameter space is a common means for analysing these models and can be computationally intensive. However, in many cases, the simulations are easily parallelizable. Graphics processing units (GPUs) are capable of efficiently running highly parallel programs and outperform CPUs in terms of raw computing power. Despite their computational advantages, their adoption by the systems biology community is relatively slow, since differences in hardware architecture between GPUs and CPUs complicate the porting of existing code.
Results: We present a Python package, cuda-sim, that provides highly parallelized algorithms for the repeated simulation of biochemical network models on NVIDIA CUDA GPUs. Algorithms are implemented for the three popular types of model formalisms: the LSODA algorithm for ODE integration, the Euler–Maruyama algorithm for SDE simulation and the Gillespie algorithm for MJP simulation. No knowledge of GPU computing is required from the user. Models can be specified in SBML format or provided as CUDA code. For running a large number of simulations in parallel, up to 360-fold decrease in simulation runtime is attained when compared to single CPU implementations.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
One central goal of computational systems biology is the mathematical modelling of complex metabolic reaction networks. The first and most time-consuming step in the development of such models consists in the stoichiometric reconstruction of the network, i. e. compilation of all metabolites, reactions and transport processes relevant to the considered network and their assignment to the various cellular compartments. Therefore an information system is required to collect and manage data from different databases and scientific literature in order to generate a metabolic network of biochemical reactions that can be subjected to further computational analyses.
The computer program METANNOGEN facilitates the reconstruction of metabolic networks. It uses the well-known database of biochemical reactions KEGG of biochemical reactions as primary information source from which biochemical reactions relevant to the considered network can be selected, edited and stored in a separate, user-defined database. Reactions not contained in KEGG can be entered manually into the system. To aid the decision whether or not a reaction selected from KEGG belongs to the considered network METANNOGEN contains information of SWISSPROT and ENSEMBL and provides Web links to a number of important information sources like METACYC, BRENDA, NIST, and REACTOME. If a reaction is reported to occur in more than one cellular compartment, a corresponding number of reactions is generated each referring to one specific compartment. Transport processes of metabolites are entered like chemical reactions where reactants and products have different compartment attributes. The list of compartmentalized biochemical reactions and membrane transport processes compiled by means of METANNOGEN can be exported as an SBML file for further computational analysis. METANNOGEN is highly customizable with respect to the content of the SBML output file, additional data-fields, the graphical input form, highlighting of project specific search terms and dynamically generated Web-links.
METANNOGEN is a flexible tool to manage information for the design of metabolic networks. The program requires Java Runtime Environment 1.4 or higher and about 100 MB of free RAM and about 200 MB of free HD space. It does not require installation and can be directly Java-webstarted from .
Network biology (systems biology) approaches are useful tools for elucidating the host infection processes that often accompany complex immune networks. Although many studies have recently focused on Haemophilus parasuis, a model of Gram-negative bacterium, little attention has been paid to the host's immune response to infection. In this article, we use network biology to investigate infection with Haemophilus parasuis in an in vivo pig model.
By targeting the spleen immunogenome, we established an expression signature indicative of H. parasuis infection using a PCA/GSEA combined method. We reconstructed the immune network and estimated the network topology parameters that characterize the immunogene expressions in response to H. parasuis infection. The results showed that the immune network of H. parasuis infection is compartmentalized (not globally linked). Statistical analysis revealed that the reconstructed network is scale-free but not small-world. Based on the quantitative topological prioritization, we inferred that the C1R-centered clique might play a vital role in responding to H. parasuis infection.
Here, we provide the first report of reconstruction of the immune network in H. parasuis-infected porcine spleen. The distinguishing feature of our work is the focus on utilizing the immunogenome for a network biology-oriented analysis. Our findings complement and extend the frontiers of knowledge of host infection biology for H. parasuis and also provide a new clue for systems infection biology of Gram-negative bacilli in mammals.
Pig model; Haemophilus parasuis; Spleen; Immunogenome; Network; Quantitative topology; Scale-free, C1R
Biochemical networks play an essential role in systems biology. Rapidly growing network data and versatile research activities call for convenient visualization tools to aid intuitively perceiving abstract structures of networks and gaining insights into the functional implications of networks. There are various kinds of network visualization software, but they are usually not adequate for visual analysis of complex biological networks mainly because of the two reasons: 1) most existing drawing methods suitable for biochemical networks have high computation loads and can hardly achieve near real-time visualization; 2) available network visualization tools are designed for working in certain network modeling platforms, so they are not convenient for general analyses due to lack of broader range of readily accessible numerical utilities.
We present LucidDraw as a visual analysis tool, which features (a) speed: typical biological networks with several hundreds of nodes can be drawn in a few seconds through a new layout algorithm; (b) ease of use: working within MATLAB makes it convenient to manipulate and analyze the network data using a broad spectrum of sophisticated numerical functions; (c) flexibility: layout styles and incorporation of other available information about functional modules can be controlled by users with little effort, and the output drawings are interactively modifiable.
Equipped with a new grid layout algorithm proposed here, LucidDraw serves as an auxiliary network analysis tool capable of visualizing complex biological networks in near real-time with controllable layout styles and drawing details. The framework of the algorithm enables easy incorporation of extra biological information, if available, to influence the output layouts with predefined node grouping features.
A goal of systems biology is the quantitative modelling of biochemical networks. Yet for many biochemical systems, parameter values and even the existence of interactions between some chemical species are unknown. It is therefore important to be able to easily investigate the effects of adding or removing reactions and to easily perform a bifurcation analysis, which shows the qualitative dynamics of a model for a range of parameter values.
We present Facile, a Perl command-line tool for analysing the dynamics of a systems biology model. Facile implements the law of mass action to automatically compile a biochemical network (written as, for example, E + S <-> C) into scripts for analytical analysis (Mathematica and Maple), for simulation (XPP and Matlab), and for bifurcation analysis (AUTO). Facile automatically identifies mass conservations and generates the reduced form of a model with the minimum number of independent variables. This form is essential for bifurcation analysis, and Facile produces a C version of the reduced model for AUTO.
Facile is a simple, yet powerful, tool that greatly accelerates analysis of the dynamics of a biochemical network. By acting at the command-line and because of its intuitive, text-based input, Facile is quick to learn and can be incorporated into larger programs or into automated tasks.
Cellular constituents such as proteins, DNA, and RNA form a complex web of interactions that regulate biochemical homeostasis and determine the dynamic cellular response to external stimuli. It follows that detailed understanding of these patterns is critical for the assessment of fundamental processes in cell biology and pathology. Representation and analysis of cellular constituents through network principles is a promising and popular analytical avenue towards a deeper understanding of molecular mechanisms in a system-wide context.
We present Functional Genomics Assistant (FUGA) - an extensible and portable MATLAB toolbox for the inference of biological relationships, graph topology analysis, random network simulation, network clustering, and functional enrichment statistics. In contrast to conventional differential expression analysis of individual genes, FUGA offers a framework for the study of system-wide properties of biological networks and highlights putative molecular targets using concepts of systems biology.
FUGA offers a simple and customizable framework for network analysis in a variety of systems biology applications. It is freely available for individual or academic use at http://code.google.com/p/fuga.
Model checking is a well-established technique for automatically verifying complex systems. Recently, model checkers have appeared in computer tools for the analysis of biochemical (and gene regulatory) networks. We survey several such tools to assess the potential of model checking in computational biology. Next, our overview focuses on direct applications of existing model checkers, as well as on algorithms for biochemical network analysis influenced by model checking, such as those using binary decision diagrams (BDDs) or Boolean-satisfiability solvers. We conclude with advantages and drawbacks of model checking for the analysis of biochemical networks.
model checking; gene regulatory networks; biochemical networks; model analysis; complex systems
Cellular processes such as metabolism, decision making in development and differentiation, signalling, etc., can be modeled as large networks of biochemical reactions. In order to understand the functioning of these systems, there is a strong need for general model reduction techniques allowing to simplify models without loosing their main properties. In systems biology we also need to compare models or to couple them as parts of larger models. In these situations reduction to a common level of complexity is needed.
We propose a systematic treatment of model reduction of multiscale biochemical networks. First, we consider linear kinetic models, which appear as "pseudo-monomolecular" subsystems of multiscale nonlinear reaction networks. For such linear models, we propose a reduction algorithm which is based on a generalized theory of the limiting step that we have developed in . Second, for non-linear systems we develop an algorithm based on dominant solutions of quasi-stationarity equations. For oscillating systems, quasi-stationarity and averaging are combined to eliminate time scales much faster and much slower than the period of the oscillations. In all cases, we obtain robust simplifications and also identify the critical parameters of the model. The methods are demonstrated for simple examples and for a more complex model of NF-κB pathway.
Our approach allows critical parameter identification and produces hierarchies of models. Hierarchical modeling is important in "middle-out" approaches when there is need to zoom in and out several levels of complexity. Critical parameter identification is an important issue in systems biology with potential applications to biological control and therapeutics. Our approach also deals naturally with the presence of multiple time scales, which is a general property of systems biology models.
Biological networks are important for elucidating disease etiology due to their ability to model complex high dimensional data and biological systems. Proteomics provides a critical data source for such models, but currently lacks robust de novo methods for network construction, which could bring important insights in systems biology.
We have evaluated the construction of network models using methods derived from weighted gene co-expression network analysis (WGCNA). We show that approximately scale-free peptide networks, composed of statistically significant modules, are feasible and biologically meaningful using two mouse lung experiments and one human plasma experiment. Within each network, peptides derived from the same protein are shown to have a statistically higher topological overlap and concordance in abundance, which is potentially important for inferring protein abundance. The module representatives, called eigenpeptides, correlate significantly with biological phenotypes. Furthermore, within modules, we find significant enrichment for biological function and known interactions (gene ontology and protein-protein interactions).
Biological networks are important tools in the analysis of complex systems. In this paper we evaluate the application of weighted co-expression network analysis to quantitative proteomics data. Protein co-expression networks allow novel approaches for biological interpretation, quality control, inference of protein abundance, a framework for potentially resolving degenerate peptide-protein mappings, and a biomarker signature discovery.
Biomarkers; Biological networks; Networks; Systems biology; Virology; Sarcopenia; LC-MS; Proteomics
Biochemical networks are used in computational biology, to model mechanistic details of systems involved in cell signaling, metabolism, and regulation of gene expression. Parametric and structural uncertainty, as well as combinatorial explosion are strong obstacles against analyzing the dynamics of large models of this type. Multiscaleness, an important property of these networks, can be used to get past some of these obstacles. Networks with many well separated time scales, can be reduced to simpler models, in a way that depends only on the orders of magnitude and not on the exact values of the kinetic parameters. The main idea used for such robust simplifications of networks is the concept of dominance among model elements, allowing hierarchical organization of these elements according to their effects on the network dynamics. This concept finds a natural formulation in tropical geometry. We revisit, in the light of these new ideas, the main approaches to model reduction of reaction networks, such as quasi-steady state (QSS) and quasi-equilibrium approximations (QE), and provide practical recipes for model reduction of linear and non-linear networks. We also discuss the application of model reduction to the problem of parameter identification, via backward pruning machine learning techniques.
computational biology; dynamical networks; model reduction; quasi-equilibrium approximation; quasi-steady state approximation
The analysis of molecular networks, such as transcriptional, metabolic and protein interaction networks, has progressed substantially because of the power of models from statistical physics. Increasingly, the data are becoming so detailed—though not always complete or correct—that the simple models are reaching the limits of their usefulness. Here, we will discuss how network information can be described and to some extent quantified. In particular statistics offers a range of tools, such as model selection, which have not yet been widely applied in the analysis of biological networks. We will also outline a number of present challenges posed by biological network data in systems biology, and the extent to which these can be addressed by new developments in statistics, physics and applied mathematics.
biological networks; network models; network sampling; protein interactions; systems biology
The behaviour of biological systems can be deduced from their mathematical models. However, multiple sources of data in diverse forms are required in the construction of a model in order to define its components and their biochemical reactions, and corresponding parameters. Automating the assembly and use of systems biology models is dependent upon data integration processes involving the interoperation of data and analytical resources.
Taverna workflows have been developed for the automated assembly of quantitative parameterised metabolic networks in the Systems Biology Markup Language (SBML). A SBML model is built in a systematic fashion by the workflows which starts with the construction of a qualitative network using data from a MIRIAM-compliant genome-scale model of yeast metabolism. This is followed by parameterisation of the SBML model with experimental data from two repositories, the SABIO-RK enzyme kinetics database and a database of quantitative experimental results. The models are then calibrated and simulated in workflows that call out to COPASIWS, the web service interface to the COPASI software application for analysing biochemical networks. These systems biology workflows were evaluated for their ability to construct a parameterised model of yeast glycolysis.
Distributed information about metabolic reactions that have been described to MIRIAM standards enables the automated assembly of quantitative systems biology models of metabolic networks based on user-defined criteria. Such data integration processes can be implemented as Taverna workflows to provide a rapid overview of the components and their relationships within a biochemical system.
Structural analysis of biochemical networks is a growing field in bioinformatics and systems biology. The availability of an increasing amount of biological data from molecular biological networks promises a deeper understanding but confronts researchers with the problem of combinatorial explosion. The amount of qualitative network data is growing much faster than the amount of quantitative data, such as enzyme kinetics. In many cases it is even impossible to measure quantitative data because of limitations of experimental methods, or for ethical reasons. Thus, a huge amount of qualitative data, such as interaction data, is available, but it was not sufficiently used for modeling purposes, until now. New approaches have been developed, but the complexity of data often limits the application of many of the methods. Biochemical Petri nets make it possible to explore static and dynamic qualitative system properties. One Petri net approach is model validation based on the computation of the system's invariant properties, focusing on t-invariants. T-invariants correspond to subnetworks, which describe the basic system behavior.
With increasing system complexity, the basic behavior can only be expressed by a huge number of t-invariants. According to our validation criteria for biochemical Petri nets, the necessary verification of the biological meaning, by interpreting each subnetwork (t-invariant) manually, is not possible anymore. Thus, an automated, biologically meaningful classification would be helpful in analyzing t-invariants, and supporting the understanding of the basic behavior of the considered biological system.
Here, we introduce a new approach to automatically classify t-invariants to cope with network complexity. We apply clustering techniques such as UPGMA, Complete Linkage, Single Linkage, and Neighbor Joining in combination with different distance measures to get biologically meaningful clusters (t-clusters), which can be interpreted as modules. To find the optimal number of t-clusters to consider for interpretation, the cluster validity measure, Silhouette Width, is applied.
We considered two different case studies as examples: a small signal transduction pathway (pheromone response pathway in Saccharomyces cerevisiae) and a medium-sized gene regulatory network (gene regulation of Duchenne muscular dystrophy). We automatically classified the t-invariants into functionally distinct t-clusters, which could be interpreted biologically as functional modules in the network. We found differences in the suitability of the various distance measures as well as the clustering methods. In terms of a biologically meaningful classification of t-invariants, the best results are obtained using the Tanimoto distance measure. Considering clustering methods, the obtained results suggest that UPGMA and Complete Linkage are suitable for clustering t-invariants with respect to the biological interpretability.
We propose a new approach for the biological classification of Petri net t-invariants based on cluster analysis. Due to the biologically meaningful data reduction and structuring of network processes, large sets of t-invariants can be evaluated, allowing for model validation of qualitative biochemical Petri nets. This approach can also be applied to elementary mode analysis.
Annotation of organism-specific metabolic networks is one of the main challenges of systems biology. Importantly, due to inherent uncertainty of computational annotations, predictions of biochemical function need to be treated probabilistically. We present a global probabilistic approach to annotate genome-scale metabolic networks that integrates sequence homology and context-based correlations under a single principled framework. The developed method for Global Biochemical reconstruction Using Sampling (GLOBUS) not only provides annotation probabilities for each functional assignment, but also suggests likely alternative functions. GLOBUS is based on statistical Gibbs sampling of probable metabolic annotations and is able to make accurate functional assignments even in cases of remote sequence identity to known enzymes. We apply GLOBUS to genomes of Bacillus subtilis and Staphylococcus aureus, and validate the method predictions by experimentally demonstrating the 6-phosphogluconolactonase activity of ykgB and the role of the sps pathway for rhamnose biosynthesis in B. subtilis.
The analysis of biochemical networks using a logical (Boolean) description is an important approach in Systems Biology. Recently, new methods have been proposed to analyze large signaling and regulatory networks using this formalism. Even though there is a large number of tools to set up models describing biological networks using a biochemical (kinetic) formalism, however, they do not support logical models.
Herein we present a flexible framework for setting up large logical models in a visual manner with the software tool ProMoT. An easily extendible library, ProMoT's inherent modularity and object-oriented concept as well as adaptive visualization techniques provide a versatile environment. Both the graphical and the textual description of the logical model can be exported to different formats.
New features of ProMoT facilitate an efficient set-up of large Boolean models of biochemical interaction networks. The modeling environment is flexible; it can easily be adapted to specific requirements, and new extensions can be introduced. ProMoT is freely available from .
Mechanistic models are becoming more and more popular in Systems Biology; identification and control of models underlying biochemical pathways of interest in oncology is a primary goal in this field. Unfortunately the scarce availability of data still limits our understanding of the intrinsic characteristics of complex pathologies like cancer: acquiring information for a system understanding of complex reaction networks is time consuming and expensive. Stimulus response experiments (SRE) have been used to gain a deeper insight into the details of biochemical mechanisms underlying cell life and functioning. Optimisation of the input time-profile, however, still remains a major area of research due to the complexity of the problem and its relevance for the task of information retrieval in systems biology-related experiments.
We have addressed the problem of quantifying the information associated to an experiment using the Fisher Information Matrix and we have proposed an optimal experimental design strategy based on evolutionary algorithm to cope with the problem of information gathering in Systems Biology. On the basis of the theoretical results obtained in the field of control systems theory, we have studied the dynamical properties of the signals to be used in cell stimulation. The results of this study have been used to develop a microfluidic device for the automation of the process of cell stimulation for system identification.
We have applied the proposed approach to the Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor pathway and we observed that it minimises the amount of parametric uncertainty associated to the identified model. A statistical framework based on Monte-Carlo estimations of the uncertainty ellipsoid confirmed the superiority of optimally designed experiments over canonical inputs. The proposed approach can be easily extended to multiobjective formulations that can also take advantage of identifiability analysis. Moreover, the availability of fully automated microfluidic platforms explicitly developed for the task of biochemical model identification will hopefully reduce the effects of the 'data rich-data poor' paradox in Systems Biology.
The body′s physiological stability is maintained by the influence of the autonomic nervous system upon the dynamic interaction of multiple systems. These physiological systems, their nature and structure, and the factors which influence their function have been poorly defined. A greater understanding of such physiological systems leads to an understanding of the synchronised function of organs in each neural network i.e. there is a fundamental relationship involving sensory input and/or sense perception, neural function and neural networks, and cellular and molecular biology. Such an approach compares with the bottom-up systems biology approach in which there may be an almost infinite degree of biochemical complexity to be taken into account.
The purpose of this article is to discuss a novel cognitive, top-down, mathematical model of the physiological systems, in particular its application to the neuroregulation of blood pressure.
This article highlights the influence of sensori-visual input upon the function of the autonomic nervous system and the coherent function of the various organ networks i.e. the relationship which exists between visual perception and pathology.
The application of Grakov′s model may lead to a greater understanding of the fundamental role played by light e.g. regulating acidity, levels of Magnesium, activation of enzymes, and the various factors which contribute to the regulation of blood pressure. It indicates that the body′s regulation of blood pressure does not reside in any one neural or visceral component but instead is a measure of the brain′s best efforts to maintain its physiological stability.
Mathematical modeling; physiological systems; blood pressure; autonomic nervous system
A report of the Systems Biology: Networks meeting, Cold Spring Harbor, USA, 22-26 March 2011.
The success of the human genome project has provided a model for an analogous interactome project to map how proteins, genes, metabolites and other regulatory components interact to transform a biochemical soup into a living system. These maps promise to serve as a framework for models that predict how a biological system responds to a perturbation or an input, which is relevant to gene mutations and therapeutic treatment in human disease, and as a framework for designing new systems in synthetic biology.
Three major themes arose during the 2011 meeting: technological drivers and data generation, algorithmic advances, and convergence on biological applications with context-sensitive networks.
Metabolic pathways have traditionally been described in terms of biochemical reactions and metabolites. Using structural genomics and systems biology, we generated a three-dimensional reconstruction of the central metabolic network of the bacterium, Thermotoga maritima (TM). The network encompassed 478 proteins of which 120 were determined by experiment and 358 were modeled. Structural analysis revealed that proteins forming the network are dominated by a small number (only 182) of basic shapes (folds) performing diverse, but mostly related functions. Most of these folds are already present in the essential core (~30%) of the network, and its expansion by nonessential proteins is achieved with relatively few additional folds. Thus, integration of structural data with networks analysis generates insight into the function, mechanism and evolution of biological networks.
Motivation: Network-centered studies in systems biology attempt to integrate the topological properties of biological networks with experimental data in order to make predictions and posit hypotheses. For any topology-based prediction, it is necessary to first assess the significance of the analyzed property in a biologically meaningful context. Therefore, devising network null models, carefully tailored to the topological and biochemical constraints imposed on the network, remains an important computational problem.
Results: We first review the shortcomings of the existing generic sampling scheme—switch randomization—and explain its unsuitability for application to metabolic networks. We then devise a novel polynomial-time algorithm for randomizing metabolic networks under the (bio)chemical constraint of mass balance. The tractability of our method follows from the concept of mass equivalence classes, defined on the representation of compounds in the vector space over chemical elements. We finally demonstrate the uniformity of the proposed method on seven genome-scale metabolic networks, and empirically validate the theoretical findings. The proposed method allows a biologically meaningful estimation of significance for metabolic network properties.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
Supplementary Information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
Highly complex molecular networks, which play fundamental roles in almost all cellular processes, are known to be dysregulated in a number of diseases, most notably in cancer. As a consequence, there is a critical need to develop practical methodologies for constructing and analysing molecular networks at a systems level. Mathematical models built with continuous differential equations are an ideal methodology because they can provide a detailed picture of a network’s dynamics. To be predictive, however, differential equation models require that numerous parameters be known a priori and this information is almost never available. An alternative dynamical approach is the use of discrete logic-based models that can provide a good approximation of the qualitative behaviour of a biochemical system without the burden of a large parameter space. Despite their advantages, there remains significant resistance to the use of logic-based models in biology. Here, we address some common concerns and provide a brief tutorial on the use of logic-based models, which we motivate with biological examples.
Network reconstructions at the cell level are a major development in Systems Biology. However, we are far from fully exploiting its potentialities. Often, the incremental complexity of the pursued systems overrides experimental capabilities, or increasingly sophisticated protocols are underutilized to merely refine confidence levels of already established interactions. For metabolic networks, the currently employed confidence scoring system rates reactions discretely according to nested categories of experimental evidence or model-based likelihood.
Here, we propose a complementary network-based scoring system that exploits the statistical regularities of a metabolic network as a bipartite graph. As an illustration, we apply it to the metabolism of Escherichia coli. The model is adjusted to the observations to derive connection probabilities between individual metabolite-reaction pairs and, after validation, to assess the reliability of each reaction in probabilistic terms. This network-based scoring system uncovers very specific reactions that could be functionally or evolutionary important, identifies prominent experimental targets, and enables further confirmation of modeling results.
We foresee a wide range of potential applications at different sub-cellular or supra-cellular levels of biological interactions given the natural bipartivity of many biological networks.
The dynamic modelling of metabolic networks aims to describe the temporal evolution of metabolite concentrations in cells. This area has attracted increasing attention in recent years owing to the availability of high-throughput data and the general development of systems biology as a promising approach to study living organisms. Biochemical Systems Theory (BST) provides an accurate formalism to describe biological dynamic phenomena. However, knowledge about the molecular organization level, used in these models, is not enough to explain phenomena such as the driving forces of these metabolic networks. Dynamic Energy Budget (DEB) theory captures the quantitative aspects of the organization of metabolism at the organism level in a way that is non-species-specific. This imposes constraints on the sub-organismal organization that are not present in the bottom-up approach of systems biology. We use in vivo data of lactic acid bacteria under various conditions to compare some aspects of BST and DEB approaches. Due to the large number of parameters to be estimated in the BST model, we applied powerful parameter identification techniques. Both models fitted equally well, but the BST model employs more parameters. The DEB model uses similarities of processes under growth and no-growth conditions and under aerobic and anaerobic conditions, which reduce the number of parameters. This paper discusses some future directions for the integration of knowledge from these two rich and promising areas, working top-down and bottom-up simultaneously. This middle-out approach is expected to bring new ideas and insights to both areas in terms of describing how living organisms operate.
metabolic networks; optimization; dynamic modelling; lactic acid bacteria
Synthetic biology is a nascent technical discipline that seeks to enable the design and construction of novel biological systems to meet pressing societal needs. However, engineering biology still requires much trial and error because we lack effective approaches for connecting basic “parts” into higher-order networks that behave as predicted. Developing strategies for improving the performance and sophistication of our designs is informed by two overarching perspectives: “bottom-up” and “top-down” considerations. Using this framework, we describe a conceptual model for developing novel biological systems that function and interact with existing biological components in a predictable fashion. We discuss this model in the context of three topical areas: biochemical transformations, cellular devices and therapeutics, and approaches that expand the chemistry of life. Ten years after the construction of synthetic biology's first devices, the drive to look beyond what does exist to what can exist is ushering in an era of biology by design.
There is an increasing interest to model biochemical and cell biological networks, as well as to the computational analysis of these models. The development of analysis methodologies and related software is rapid in the field. However, the number of available models is still relatively small and the model sizes remain limited. The lack of kinetic information is usually the limiting factor for the construction of detailed simulation models.
We present a computational toolbox for generating random biochemical network models which mimic real biochemical networks. The toolbox is called Random Models for Biochemical Networks. The toolbox works in the Matlab environment, and it makes it possible to generate various network structures, stoichiometries, kinetic laws for reactions, and parameters therein. The generation can be based on statistical rules and distributions, and more detailed information of real biochemical networks can be used in situations where it is known. The toolbox can be easily extended. The resulting network models can be exported in the format of Systems Biology Markup Language.
While more information is accumulating on biochemical networks, random networks can be used as an intermediate step towards their better understanding. Random networks make it possible to study the effects of various network characteristics to the overall behavior of the network. Moreover, the construction of artificial network models provides the ground truth data needed in the validation of various computational methods in the fields of parameter estimation and data analysis.