Cell fate determination is usually described as the result of the stochastic dynamics of gene regulatory networks (GRNs) reaching one of multiple steady-states each of which corresponds to a specific decision. However, the fate of a cell is determined in finite time suggesting the importance of transient dynamics in cellular decision making. Here we consider cellular decision making as resulting from first passage processes of regulatory proteins and examine the effect of transient dynamics within the initial lysis-lysogeny switch of phage λ. Importantly, the fate of an infected cell depends, in part, on the number of coinfecting phages. Using a quantitative model of the phage λ GRN, we find that changes in the likelihood of lysis and lysogeny can be driven by changes in phage co-infection number regardless of whether or not there exists steady-state bistability within the GRN. Furthermore, two GRNs which yield qualitatively distinct steady state behaviors as a function of phage infection number can show similar transient responses, sufficient for alternative cell fate determination. We compare our model results to a recent experimental study of cell fate determination in single cell assays of multiply infected bacteria. Whereas the experimental study proposed a “quasi-independent” hypothesis for cell fate determination consistent with an observed data collapse, we demonstrate that observed cell fate results are compatible with an alternative form of data collapse consistent with a partial gene dosage compensation mechanism. We show that including partial gene dosage compensation at the mRNA level in our stochastic model of fate determination leads to the same data collapse observed in the single cell study. Our findings elucidate the importance of transient gene regulatory dynamics in fate determination, and present a novel alternative hypothesis to explain single-cell level heterogeneity within the phage λ lysis-lysogeny decision switch.
Multicellular organisms, single-celled organisms, and even viruses can exhibit alternative responses to various internal and environmental conditions. At the cellular level, alternative fate determination is usually described as the result of the inherent bistability of gene regulatory networks (GRNs). However, the fate of a cell is determined in finite time suggesting the importance of transient dynamics to cellular decision making. Here, we present a quantitative gene regulatory model of how bacteriophages determine the fate of an infected bacterium. We find that increasing the number of infecting phages increases the chance of quiescent (i.e., lysogeny) vs. productive (i.e. lysis) viral growth, in agreement with prior studies. However, unlike previous theoretical studies, the bias in cell fate is a result of the transient divergence of stochastic gene expression dynamics. We compare and contrast our theoretical model with recent observations of cell fate measured at the single-cell level within multiply-infected cells. Predicted heterogeneity in cell fate is shown to agree with data when including a previously unidentified gene dosage compensation mechanism, which represents an alternative hypothesis to how multiple phages interact in influencing cell fate. Together, our results suggest the importance of quantitative details of transient gene regulation in driving stochastic fate determination.
Dynamical models are instrumental for exploring the way information required to generate robust developmental patterns arises from complex interactions among genetic and non-genetic factors. We address this fundamental issue of developmental biology studying the leaf and root epidermis of Arabidopsis. We propose an experimentally-grounded model of gene regulatory networks (GRNs) that are coupled by protein diffusion and comprise a meta-GRN implemented on cellularised domains.
Steady states of the meta-GRN model correspond to gene expression profiles typical of hair and non-hair epidermal cells. The simulations also render spatial patterns that match the cellular arrangements observed in root and leaf epidermis. As in actual plants, such patterns are robust in the face of diverse perturbations. We validated the model by checking that it also reproduced the patterns of reported mutants. The meta-GRN model shows that interlinked sub-networks contribute redundantly to the formation of robust hair patterns and permits to advance novel and testable predictions regarding the effect of cell shape, signalling pathways and additional gene interactions affecting spatial cell-patterning.
The spatial meta-GRN model integrates available experimental data and contributes to further understanding of the Arabidopsis epidermal system. It also provides a systems biology framework to explore the interplay among sub-networks of a GRN, cell-to-cell communication, cell shape and domain traits, which could help understanding of general aspects of patterning processes. For instance, our model suggests that the information needed for cell fate determination emerges from dynamic processes that depend upon molecular components inside and outside differentiating cells, suggesting that the classical distinction of lineage versus positional cell differentiation may be instrumental but rather artificial. It also suggests that interlinkage of nonlinear and redundant sub-networks in larger networks is important for pattern robustness. Pursuing dynamic analyses of larger (genomic) coupled networks is still not possible. A repertoire of well-characterised regulatory modules, like the one presented here, will, however, help to uncover general principles of the patterning-associated networks, as well as the peculiarities that originate diversity.
Gene Regulatory Networks (GRNs) control the differentiation, specification and function of cells at the genomic level. The levels of interactions within large GRNs are of enormous depth and complexity. Details about many GRNs are emerging, but in most cases it is unknown to what extent they control a given process, i.e. the grade of completeness is uncertain. This uncertainty stems from limited experimental data, which is the main bottleneck for creating detailed dynamical models of cellular processes. Parameter estimation for each node is often infeasible for very large GRNs. We propose a method, based on random parameter estimations through Monte-Carlo simulations to measure completeness grades of GRNs.
We developed a heuristic to assess the completeness of large GRNs, using ODE simulations under different conditions and randomly sampled parameter sets to detect parameter-invariant effects of perturbations. To test this heuristic, we constructed the first ODE model of the whole sea urchin endomesoderm GRN, one of the best studied large GRNs. We find that nearly 48% of the parameter-invariant effects correspond with experimental data, which is 65% of the expected optimal agreement obtained from a submodel for which kinetic parameters were estimated and used for simulations. Randomized versions of the model reproduce only 23.5% of the experimental data.
The method described in this paper enables an evaluation of network topologies of GRNs without requiring any parameter values. The benefit of this method is exemplified in the first mathematical analysis of the complete Endomesoderm Network Model. The predictions we provide deliver candidate nodes in the network that are likely to be erroneous or miss unknown connections, which may need additional experiments to improve the network topology. This mathematical model can serve as a scaffold for detailed and more realistic models. We propose that our method can be used to assess a completeness grade of any GRN. This could be especially useful for GRNs involved in human diseases, where often the amount of connectivity is unknown and/or many genes/interactions are missing.
Controlling cell fate is essential for embryonic development, tissue regeneration, and the prevention of human disease. With each cell in the human body sharing a common genome, achieving the appropriate spectrum of stem cells and their differentiated lineages requires the selective activation of developmental signaling pathways, the expression of specific target genes, and the maintenance of these cellular states through epigenetic mechanisms. Small molecules that target these regulatory processes are therefore valuable tools for probing and manipulating the molecular mechanisms by which stem cells self-renew, differentiate, and arise from somatic cell reprogramming. Pharmacological modulators of cell fate could also help remediate human diseases caused by dysregulated cell proliferation or differentiation, heralding a new era in molecular therapeutics.
Differentiation: The process by which unspecialized cells acquire specific functions, allowing the generation of complex tissues and organs. Differentiation is frequently controlled by cell signaling pathways and maintained through epigenetic mechanisms.; Ectoderm: The outer germ layer that gives rise to skin, the nervous system, and sensory organs.; Endoderm: The inner germ layer that gives rise to respiratory and digestive organs.; Embryonic stem cells: Pluripotent cells derived from embryos that can be propagated in culture.; Feeder cells: Cells co-cultured with pluripotent cells to prevent their differentiation. Feeder cells are typically mouse or human embryonic fibroblasts.; Induced pluripotent stem cells: Pluripotent cells obtained through the reprogramming of differentiated cells. Induced pluripotent stem cells are functionally similar to embryonic stem cells.; Mesoderm: The middle germ layer that gives rise to muscle, bone, connective tissues, and blood cells.; Multipotent cells: Cells that can give rise to more than one cell type of the body.; Pluripotent cells: Cells that can give rise to all differentiated cell types of the body but not extraembryonic tissues.; Totipotent cells: Cells that give rise to all differentiated cell types of the body and extraembryonic tissues such as the placenta.
Flowers are the most complex structures of plants. Studies of Arabidopsis thaliana, which has typical eudicot flowers, have been fundamental in advancing the structural and molecular understanding of flower development. The main processes and stages of Arabidopsis flower development are summarized to provide a framework in which to interpret the detailed molecular genetic studies of genes assigned functions during flower development and is extended to recent genomics studies uncovering the key regulatory modules involved. Computational models have been used to study the concerted action and dynamics of the gene regulatory module that underlies patterning of the Arabidopsis inflorescence meristem and specification of the primordial cell types during early stages of flower development. This includes the gene combinations that specify sepal, petal, stamen and carpel identity, and genes that interact with them. As a dynamic gene regulatory network this module has been shown to converge to stable multigenic profiles that depend upon the overall network topology and are thus robust, which can explain the canalization of flower organ determination and the overall conservation of the basic flower plan among eudicots. Comparative and evolutionary approaches derived from Arabidopsis studies pave the way to studying the molecular basis of diverse floral morphologies.
Conventional identification methods for gene regulatory networks (GRNs) have overwhelmingly adopted static topology models, which remains unchanged over time to represent the underlying molecular interactions of a biological system. However, GRNs are dynamic in response to physiological and environmental changes. Although there is a rich literature in modeling static or temporally invariant networks, how to systematically recover these temporally changing networks remains a major and significant pressing challenge. The purpose of this study is to suggest a two-step strategy that recovers time-varying GRNs.
It is suggested in this paper to utilize a switching auto-regressive model to describe the dynamics of time-varying GRNs, and a two-step strategy is proposed to recover the structure of time-varying GRNs. In the first step, the change points are detected by a Kalman-filter based method. The observed time series are divided into several segments using these detection results; and each time series segment belonging to two successive demarcating change points is associated with an individual static regulatory network. In the second step, conditional network structure identification methods are used to reconstruct the topology for each time interval. This two-step strategy efficiently decouples the change point detection problem and the topology inference problem. Simulation results show that the proposed strategy can detect the change points precisely and recover each individual topology structure effectively. Moreover, computation results with the developmental data of Drosophila Melanogaster show that the proposed change point detection procedure is also able to work effectively in real world applications and the change point estimation accuracy exceeds other existing approaches, which means the suggested strategy may also be helpful in solving actual GRN reconstruction problem.
Epigenetic regulation modulates gene expression without altering the DNA sequence to facilitate rapid adjustments to dynamically changing environmental conditions. The formation of an epigenetic memory allows passing on this information to subsequent generations. Here we propose that epigenetic memories formed by adverse environmental conditions and stress represent a critical determinant of health and disease in the F3 generation and beyond. Transgenerational programming of epigenetic regulation may represent a key to understand adult-onset complex disease pathogenesis and cumulative effects of life span and familial disease etiology. Ultimately, the mechanisms of generating an epigenetic memory may become of potentially promising diagnostic and therapeutic relevance due to their reversible nature. Exploring the role of environmental factors, such as stress, in causing variations in epigenetic profiles may lead to new avenues of personalized, preventive medicine based on epigenetic signatures and interventions.
epigenetics; microRNA; methylation; histone; programming by perinatal stress; adverse experience; neurological and psychiatric diseases; metabolic diseases
Gene regulatory networks (GRNs) are models of molecule-gene interactions instrumental in the coordination of gene expression. Transcription factor (TF)-GRNs are an important subset of GRNs that characterize gene expression as the effect of TFs acting on their target genes. Although such networks can qualitatively summarize TF-gene interactions, it is highly desirable to quantitatively determine the strengths of the interactions in a TF-GRN as well as the magnitudes of TF activities. To our knowledge, such analysis is rare in plant biology. A computational methodology developed for this purpose is network component analysis (NCA), which has been used for studying large-scale microbial TF-GRNs to obtain nontrivial, mechanistic insights. In this work, we employed NCA to quantitatively analyze a plant TF-GRN important in floral development using available regulatory information from AGRIS, by processing previously reported gene expression data from four shoot apical meristem cell types.
The NCA model satisfactorily accounted for gene expression measurements in a TF-GRN of seven TFs (LFY, AG, SEPALLATA3 [SEP3], AP2, AGL15, HY5 and AP3/PI) and 55 genes. NCA found strong interactions between certain TF-gene pairs including LFY → MYB17, AG → CRC, AP2 → RD20, AGL15 → RAV2 and HY5 → HLH1, and the direction of the interaction (activation or repression) for some AGL15 targets for which this information was not previously available. The activity trends of four TFs - LFY, AG, HY5 and AP3/PI as deduced by NCA correlated well with the changes in expression levels of the genes encoding these TFs across all four cell types; such a correlation was not observed for SEP3, AP2 and AGL15.
For the first time, we have reported the use of NCA to quantitatively analyze a plant TF-GRN important in floral development for obtaining nontrivial information about connectivity strengths between TFs and their target genes as well as TF activity. However, since NCA relies on documented connectivity information about the underlying TF-GRN, it is currently limited in its application to larger plant networks because of the lack of documented connectivities. In the future, the identification of interactions between plant TFs and their target genes on a genome scale would allow the use of NCA to provide quantitative regulatory information about plant TF-GRNs, leading to improved insights on cellular regulatory programs.
Different from herbaceous plants, the woody plants undergo a long-period vegetative stage to achieve floral transition. They then turn into seasonal plants, flowering annually. In this study, a preliminary model of gene regulations for seasonal pistillate flowering in hickory (Carya cathayensis) was proposed. The genome-wide dynamic transcriptome was characterized via the joint-approach of RNA sequencing and microarray analysis.
Differential transcript abundance analysis uncovered the dynamic transcript abundance patterns of flowering correlated genes and their major functions based on Gene Ontology (GO) analysis. To explore pistillate flowering mechanism in hickory, a comprehensive flowering gene regulatory network based on Arabidopsis thaliana was constructed by additional literature mining. A total of 114 putative flowering or floral genes including 31 with differential transcript abundance were identified in hickory. The locations, functions and dynamic transcript abundances were analyzed in the gene regulatory networks. A genome-wide co-expression network for the putative flowering or floral genes shows three flowering regulatory modules corresponding to response to light abiotic stimulus, cold stress, and reproductive development process, respectively. Totally 27 potential flowering or floral genes were recruited which are meaningful to understand the hickory specific seasonal flowering mechanism better.
Flowering event of pistillate flower bud in hickory is triggered by several pathways synchronously including the photoperiod, autonomous, vernalization, gibberellin, and sucrose pathway. Totally 27 potential flowering or floral genes were recruited from the genome-wide co-expression network function module analysis. Moreover, the analysis provides a potential FLC-like gene based vernalization pathway and an 'AC’ model for pistillate flower development in hickory. This work provides an available framework for pistillate flower development in hickory, which is significant for insight into regulation of flowering and floral development of woody plants.
Co-expression network; Carya cathayensis Sarg; Floral development; Seasonal flowering; Hickory; High-throughput data analysis
The steady-state behaviour of gene regulatory networks (GRNs) can provide crucial evidence for detecting disease-causing genes. However, monitoring the dynamics of GRNs is particularly difficult because biological data only reflects a snapshot of the dynamical behaviour of the living organism. Also most GRN data and methods are used to provide limited structural inferences.
In this study, the theory of stochastic GRNs, derived from G-Networks, is applied to GRNs in order to monitor their steady-state behaviours. This approach is applied to a simulation dataset which is generated by using the stochastic gene expression model, and observe that the G-Network properly detects the abnormally expressed genes in the simulation study. In the analysis of real data concerning the cell cycle microarray of budding yeast, our approach finds that the steady-state probability of CLB2 is lower than that of other agents, while most of the genes have similar steady-state probabilities. These results lead to the conclusion that the key regulatory genes of the cell cycle can be expressed in the absence of CLB type cyclines, which was also the conclusion of the original microarray experiment study.
G-networks provide an efficient way to monitor steady-state of GRNs. Our method produces more reliable results then the conventional t-test in detecting differentially expressed genes. Also G-networks are successfully applied to the yeast GRNs. This study will be the base of further GRN dynamics studies cooperated with conventional GRN inference algorithms.
Biological processes are regulated by complex interactions between transcription factors and signalling molecules, collectively described as Genetic Regulatory Networks (GRNs). The characterisation of these networks to reveal regulatory mechanisms is a long-term goal of many laboratories. However compiling, visualising and interacting with such networks is non-trivial. Current tools and databases typically focus on GRNs within simple, single celled organisms. However, data is available within the literature describing regulatory interactions in multi-cellular organisms, although not in any systematic form. This is particularly true within the field of developmental biology, where regulatory interactions should also be tagged with information about the time and anatomical location of development in which they occur.
We have developed myGRN (), a web application for storing and interrogating interaction data, with an emphasis on developmental processes. Users can submit interaction and gene expression data, either curated from published sources or derived from their own unpublished data. All interactions associated with publications are publicly visible, and unpublished interactions can only be shared between collaborating labs prior to publication. Users can group interactions into discrete networks based on specific biological processes. Various filters allow dynamic production of network diagrams based on a range of information including tissue location, developmental stage or basic topology. Individual networks can be viewed using myGRV, a tool focused on displaying developmental networks, or exported in a range of formats compatible with third party tools. Networks can also be analysed for the presence of common network motifs. We demonstrate the capabilities of myGRN using a network of zebrafish interactions integrated with expression data from the zebrafish database, ZFIN.
Here we are launching myGRN as a community-based repository for interaction networks, with a specific focus on developmental networks. We plan to extend its functionality, as well as use it to study networks involved in embryonic development in the future.
Reconstructing gene regulatory networks (GRNs) from expression data is one of the most important challenges in systems biology research. Many computational models and methods have been proposed to automate the process of network reconstruction. Inferring robust networks with desired behaviours remains challenging, however. This problem is related to network dynamics but has yet to be investigated using network modeling.
We propose an incremental evolution approach for inferring GRNs that takes network robustness into consideration and can deal with a large number of network parameters. Our approach includes a sensitivity analysis procedure to iteratively select the most influential network parameters, and it uses a swarm intelligence procedure to perform parameter optimization. We have conducted a series of experiments to evaluate the external behaviors and internal robustness of the networks inferred by the proposed approach. The results and analyses have verified the effectiveness of our approach.
Sensitivity analysis is crucial to identifying the most sensitive parameters that govern the network dynamics. It can further be used to derive constraints for network parameters in the network reconstruction process. The experimental results show that the proposed approach can successfully infer robust GRNs with desired system behaviors.
Apoptosis is a critical process in endothelial cell (EC) biology and pathology, which has been extensively studied at protein level. Numerous gene expression studies of EC apoptosis have also been performed, however few attempts have been made to use gene expression data to identify the molecular relationships and master regulators that underlie EC apoptosis. Therefore, we sought to understand these relationships by generating a Bayesian gene regulatory network (GRN) model.
ECs were induced to undergo apoptosis using serum withdrawal and followed over a time course in triplicate, using microarrays. When generating the GRN, this EC time course data was supplemented by a library of microarray data from EC treated with siRNAs targeting over 350 signalling molecules.
The GRN model proposed Vasohibin-1 (VASH1) as one of the candidate master-regulators of EC apoptosis with numerous downstream mRNAs. To evaluate the role played by VASH1 in EC, we used siRNA to reduce the expression of VASH1. Of 10 mRNAs downstream of VASH1 in the GRN that were examined, 7 were significantly up- or down-regulated in the direction predicted by the GRN.Further supporting an important biological role of VASH1 in EC, targeted reduction of VASH1 mRNA abundance conferred resistance to serum withdrawal-induced EC death.
We have utilised Bayesian GRN modelling to identify a novel candidate master regulator of EC apoptosis. This study demonstrates how GRN technology can complement traditional methods to hypothesise the regulatory relationships that underlie important biological processes.
Vasohibin; HUVEC; Bayesian; Gene regulatory network
Gene regulatory networks for animal development are the underlying mechanisms controlling cell fate specification and differentiation. The architecture of gene regulatory circuits determines their information processing properties and their developmental function. It is a major task to derive realistic network models from exceedingly advanced high throughput experimental data. Here we use mathematical modeling to study the dynamics of gene regulatory circuits to advance the ability to infer regulatory connections and logic function from experimental data. This study is guided by experimental methodologies that are commonly used to study gene regulatory networks that control cell fate specification. We study the effect of a perturbation of an input on the level of its downstream genes and compare between the cis-regulatory execution of OR and AND logics. Circuits that initiate gene activation and circuits that lock on the expression of genes are analyzed. The model improves our ability to analyze experimental data and construct from it the network topology. The model also illuminates information processing properties of gene regulatory circuits for animal development.
Gene regulatory networks; Perturbation analysis; Mathematical modeling
How do cells interpret information from their environment and translate it into specific cell fate decisions? We propose that cell fate is already encoded in early signaling events and thus can be predicted from defined signal properties. Specifically, we hypothesize that the time integral of activated key signaling molecules can be correlated to cellular behavior such as proliferation or differentiation. The identification of these decisive key signal mediators and their connection to cell fate is facilitated by mathematical modeling. A possible mechanistic linkage between signaling dynamics and cellular function is the directed control of gene regulatory networks by defined signals. Targeted experiments in combination with mathematical modeling can increase our understanding of how cells process information and realize distinct cell fates.
cell fate decision; gene regulatory network; integrated response; mathematical model; signaling dynamics
In contrast to the classical view of development as a preprogrammed and deterministic process, recent studies have demonstrated that stochastic perturbations of highly non-linear systems may underlie the emergence and stability of biological patterns. Herein, we address the question of whether noise contributes to the generation of the stereotypical temporal pattern in gene expression during flower development. We modeled the regulatory network of organ identity genes in the Arabidopsis thaliana flower as a stochastic system. This network has previously been shown to converge to ten fixed-point attractors, each with gene expression arrays that characterize inflorescence cells and primordial cells of sepals, petals, stamens, and carpels. The network used is binary, and the logical rules that govern its dynamics are grounded in experimental evidence. We introduced different levels of uncertainty in the updating rules of the network. Interestingly, for a level of noise of around 0.5–10%, the system exhibited a sequence of transitions among attractors that mimics the sequence of gene activation configurations observed in real flowers. We also implemented the gene regulatory network as a continuous system using the Glass model of differential equations, that can be considered as a first approximation of kinetic-reaction equations, but which are not necessarily equivalent to the Boolean model. Interestingly, the Glass dynamics recover a temporal sequence of attractors, that is qualitatively similar, although not identical, to that obtained using the Boolean model. Thus, time ordering in the emergence of cell-fate patterns is not an artifact of synchronous updating in the Boolean model. Therefore, our model provides a novel explanation for the emergence and robustness of the ubiquitous temporal pattern of floral organ specification. It also constitutes a new approach to understanding morphogenesis, providing predictions on the population dynamics of cells with different genetic configurations during development.
A number of mechanistic and predictive genetic regulatory networks (GRNs) comprising dozens of genes have already been characterized at the level of cis-regulatory interactions. Reconstructions of networks of 100’s to 1000’s of genes and their interactions are currently underway. Understanding the organizational and functional principles underlying these networks is probably the single greatest challenge facing genomics today. We review the current approaches to deciphering large-scale GRNs and discuss some of their limitations. We then propose a bottom-up approach in which large-scale GRNs are first organized in terms of functionally distinct GRN building blocks of one or a few genes. Biological processes may then be viewed as the outcome of functional interactions among these simple, well-characterized functional building blocks. We describe several putative GRN functional building blocks and show that they can be located within GRNs on the basis of their interaction topology and additional, simple and experimentally testable constraints.
Genetic regulatory networks; systems biology; transcriptional regulation; visualization
There has been a lot of interest in recent years focusing on the modeling and simulation of Gene Regulatory Networks (GRNs). However, the evolutionary mechanisms that give rise to GRNs in the first place are still largely unknown. In an earlier work, we developed a framework to analyze the effect of objective functions, input types and starting populations on the evolution of GRNs with a specific emphasis on the robustness of evolved GRNs.
In this work, we present a parallel software package, GeNESiS for the modeling and simulation of the evolution of gene regulatory networks (GRNs). The software models the process of gene regulation through a combination of finite-state and stochastic models. The evolution of GRNs is then simulated by means of a genetic algorithm with the network connections represented as binary strings. The software allows users to simulate the evolution under varying selective pressures and starting conditions. We believe that the software provides a way for researchers to understand the evolutionary behavior of populations of GRNs.
We believe that GeNESiS will serve as a useful tool for scientists interested in understanding the evolution of gene regulatory networks under a range of different conditions and selective pressures. Such modeling efforts can lead to a greater understanding of the network characteristics of GRNs.
The lack of understanding of stem cell differentiation and proliferation is a fundamental problem in developmental biology. Although gene regulatory networks (GRNs) for stem cell differentiation have been partially identified, the nature of differentiation dynamics and their regulation leading to robust development remain unclear. Herein, using a dynamical system modeling cell approach, we performed simulations of the developmental process using all possible GRNs with a few genes, and screened GRNs that could generate cell type diversity through cell-cell interactions. We found that model stem cells that both proliferated and differentiated always exhibited oscillatory expression dynamics, and the differentiation frequency of such stem cells was regulated, resulting in a robust number distribution. Moreover, we uncovered the common regulatory motifs for stem cell differentiation, in which a combination of regulatory motifs that generated oscillatory expression dynamics and stabilized distinct cellular states played an essential role. These findings may explain the recently observed heterogeneity and dynamic equilibrium in cellular states of stem cells, and can be used to predict regulatory networks responsible for differentiation in stem cell systems.
The “Community Effect” denotes intra-territorial signaling amongst cells which constitute a particular tissue or embryonic progenitor field. The cells of the territory express the same transcriptional regulatory state, and the intra-territorial signaling is essential to maintenance of this specific regulatory state. The structure of the underlying gene regulatory network (GRN) subcircuitry explains the genomically wired mechanism by which community effect signaling is linked to the continuing transcriptional generation of the territorial regulatory state. A clear example is afforded by the oral ectoderm GRN of the sea urchin embryo where cis-regulatory evidence, experimental embryology, and network analysis combine to provide a complete picture. We review this example and consider less well known but similar cases in other developing systems where the same subcircuit GRN topology is present. To resolve mechanistic issues that arise in considering how community effect signaling could operate to produce its observed effects, we construct and analyze the behavior of a quantitative model of community effect signaling in the sea urchin embryo oral ectoderm. Community effect network topology could constitute part of the genomic regulatory code that defines transcriptional function in multicellular tissues composed of cells in contact, and hence may have arisen as a metazoan developmental strategy.
Community effect; Intradomain signaling; sea urchin embryo; nodal gene regulation
Reconstruction of gene regulatory networks (GRNs) is of utmost interest and has become a challenge computational problem in system biology. However, every existing inference algorithm from gene expression profiles has its own advantages and disadvantages. In particular, the effectiveness and efficiency of every previous algorithm is not high enough. In this work, we proposed a novel inference algorithm from gene expression data based on differential equation model. In this algorithm, two methods were included for inferring GRNs. Before reconstructing GRNs, singular value decomposition method was used to decompose gene expression data, determine the algorithm solution space, and get all candidate solutions of GRNs. In these generated family of candidate solutions, gravitation field algorithm was modified to infer GRNs, used to optimize the criteria of differential equation model, and search the best network structure result. The proposed algorithm is validated on both the simulated scale-free network and real benchmark gene regulatory network in networks database. Both the Bayesian method and the traditional differential equation model were also used to infer GRNs, and the results were used to compare with the proposed algorithm in our work. And genetic algorithm and simulated annealing were also used to evaluate gravitation field algorithm. The cross-validation results confirmed the effectiveness of our algorithm, which outperforms significantly other previous algorithms.
Gene regulatory networks (GRNs) drive the cellular processes that sustain life. To do so reliably, GRNs must be robust to perturbations, such as gene deletion and the addition or removal of regulatory interactions. GRNs must also be robust to genetic changes in regulatory regions that define the logic of signal-integration, as these changes can affect how specific combinations of regulatory signals are mapped to particular gene expression states. Previous theoretical analyses have demonstrated that the robustness of a GRN is influenced by its underlying topological properties, such as degree distribution and modularity. Another important topological property is assortativity, which measures the propensity with which nodes of similar connectivity are connected to one another. How assortativity influences the robustness of the signal-integration logic of GRNs remains an open question. Here, we use computational models of GRNs to investigate this relationship. We separately consider each of the three dynamical regimes of this model for a variety of degree distributions. We find that in the chaotic regime, robustness exhibits a pronounced increase as assortativity becomes more positive, while in the critical and ordered regimes, robustness is generally less sensitive to changes in assortativity. We attribute the increased robustness to a decrease in the duration of the gene expression pattern, which is caused by a reduction in the average size of a GRN’s in-components. This study provides the first direct evidence that assortativity influences the robustness of the signal-integration logic of computational models of GRNs, illuminates a mechanistic explanation for this influence, and furthers our understanding of the relationship between topology and robustness in complex biological systems.
Boolean networks; regulatory regions; in-components; genetic regulation
The inference of gene regulatory networks (GRNs) from large-scale expression profiles is one of the most challenging problems of Systems Biology nowadays. Many techniques and models have been proposed for this task. However, it is not generally possible to recover the original topology with great accuracy, mainly due to the short time series data in face of the high complexity of the networks and the intrinsic noise of the expression measurements. In order to improve the accuracy of GRNs inference methods based on entropy (mutual information), a new criterion function is here proposed.
In this paper we introduce the use of generalized entropy proposed by Tsallis, for the inference of GRNs from time series expression profiles. The inference process is based on a feature selection approach and the conditional entropy is applied as criterion function. In order to assess the proposed methodology, the algorithm is applied to recover the network topology from temporal expressions generated by an artificial gene network (AGN) model as well as from the DREAM challenge. The adopted AGN is based on theoretical models of complex networks and its gene transference function is obtained from random drawing on the set of possible Boolean functions, thus creating its dynamics. On the other hand, DREAM time series data presents variation of network size and its topologies are based on real networks. The dynamics are generated by continuous differential equations with noise and perturbation. By adopting both data sources, it is possible to estimate the average quality of the inference with respect to different network topologies, transfer functions and network sizes.
A remarkable improvement of accuracy was observed in the experimental results by reducing the number of false connections in the inferred topology by the non-Shannon entropy. The obtained best free parameter of the Tsallis entropy was on average in the range 2.5 ≤ q ≤ 3.5 (hence, subextensive entropy), which opens new perspectives for GRNs inference methods based on information theory and for investigation of the nonextensivity of such networks. The inference algorithm and criterion function proposed here were implemented and included in the DimReduction software, which is freely available at http://sourceforge.net/projects/dimreduction and http://code.google.com/p/dimreduction/.
We discuss mechanisms and factors that influence levels and stability of expressed heterologous proteins in crop plants. We have seen substantial progress in this field over the past two decades in model experimental organisms such as Arabidopsis and tobacco. There is no question such studies have resulted in furthering our understanding of key processes in the plant cell and the elaboration of sophisticated models to explain underlying mechanisms that might influence the fate, levels and stability of expression of recombinant heterologous proteins in plants. However, very often, such information is not applicable outside these laboratory experimental models. In order to generate a knowledge basis that can be used to achieve high levels and stability of heterologous proteins in relevant crop plants it is imperative to perform such studies on the target crops. With this in mind, we discuss key elements of the process at the DNA, RNA and protein levels. We believe it is essential to discuss recombinant protein production in crops in a holistic manner in order to develop a comprehensive knowledge base that will in turn serve plant biotechnology applications well.
transgene expression; protein trafficking; silencing mechanisms; chromatin remodeling; crop plants
Quantitative models of development that consider all relevant genes typically are difficult to fit to embryonic data alone and have many redundant parameters. Computational evolution supplies models of phenotype with relatively few variables and parameters that allows the patterning dynamics to be reduced to a geometrical picture for how the state of a cell moves. The clock and wavefront model, that defines the phenotype of somitogenesis, can be represented as a sequence of two discrete dynamical transitions (bifurcations). The expression-time to space map for Hox genes and the posterior dominance rule are phenotypes that naturally follow from computational evolution without considering the genetics of Hox regulation.