Neuron behavior results from the interplay between networks of biochemical processes and electrical signaling. Synaptic plasticity is one of the neuronal properties emerging from such an interaction. One of the current approaches to study plasticity is to model either its electrical aspects or its biochemical components. Among the chief reasons are the different time scales involved, electrical events happening in milliseconds while biochemical cascades respond in minutes or hours. In order to create multiscale models taking in consideration both aspects simultaneously, one needs to synchronize the two models, and exchange relevant variable values. We present a new event-driven algorithm to synchronize different neuronal models, which decreases computational time and avoids superfluous synchronizations. The algorithm is implemented in the TimeScales framework. We demonstrate its use by simulating a new multiscale model of the Medium Spiny Neuron of the Neostriatum. The model comprises over a thousand dendritic spines, where the electrical model interacts with the respective instances of a biochemical model. Our results show that a multiscale model is able to exhibit changes of synaptic plasticity as a result of the interaction between electrical and biochemical signaling. Our synchronization strategy is general enough to be used in simulations of other models with similar synchronization issues, such as networks of neurons. Moreover, the integration between the electrical and the biochemical models opens up the possibility to investigate multiscale process, like synaptic plasticity, in a more global manner, while taking into account a more realistic description of the underlying mechanisms.
Molecular binding is an interaction between molecules that results in a stable association between those molecules. Cooperative binding occurs if the number of binding sites of a macromolecule that are occupied by a specific type of ligand is a nonlinear function of this ligand's concentration. This can be due, for instance, to an affinity for the ligand that depends on the amount of ligand bound. Cooperativity can be positive (supralinear) or negative (infralinear). Cooperative binding is most often observed in proteins, but nucleic acids can also exhibit cooperative binding, for instance of transcription factors. Cooperative binding has been shown to be the mechanism underlying a large range of biochemical and physiological processes.
The MIRIAM Registry (http://www.ebi.ac.uk/miriam/) records information about collections of data in the life sciences, as well as where it can be obtained. This information is used, in combination with the resolving infrastructure of Identifiers.org (http://identifiers.org/), to generate globally unique identifiers, in the form of Uniform Resource Identifier. These identifiers are now widely used to provide perennial cross-references and annotations. The growing demand for these identifiers results in a significant increase in curational efforts to maintain the underlying registry. This requires the design and implementation of an economically viable and sustainable solution able to cope with such expansion. We briefly describe the Registry, the current curation duties entailed, and our plans to extend and distribute this workload through collaborative and community efforts.
The Kinetic Simulation Algorithm Ontology (KiSAO) supplies information about existing algorithms available for the simulation of Systems Biology models, their characteristics, parameters and inter-relationships. KiSAO enables the unambiguous identification of algorithms from simulation descriptions. Information about analogous methods having similar characteristics and about algorithm parameters incorporated into KiSAO is desirable for simulation tools. To retrieve this information programmatically an application programming interface (API) for KiSAO is needed.
We developed libKiSAO, a Java library to enable querying of the KiSA Ontology. It implements methods to retrieve information about simulation algorithms stored in KiSAO, their characteristics and parameters, and methods to query the algorithm hierarchy and search for similar algorithms providing comparable results for the same simulation set-up. Using libKiSAO, simulation tools can make logical inferences based on this knowledge and choose the most appropriate algorithm to perform a simulation. LibKiSAO also enables simulation tools to handle a wider range of simulation descriptions by determining which of the available methods are similar and can be used instead of the one indicated in the simulation description if that one is not implemented.
LibKiSAO enables Java applications to easily access information about simulation algorithms, their characteristics and parameters stored in the OWL-encoded Kinetic Simulation Algorithm Ontology. LibKiSAO can be used by simulation description editors and simulation tools to improve reproducibility of computational simulation tasks and facilitate model re-use.
Java library; Simulation; Algorithm search; Ontology
Motivation: The biological pathway exchange language (BioPAX) and the systems biology markup language (SBML) belong to the most popular modeling and data exchange languages in systems biology. The focus of SBML is quantitative modeling and dynamic simulation of models, whereas the BioPAX specification concentrates mainly on visualization and qualitative analysis of pathway maps. BioPAX describes reactions and relations. In contrast, SBML core exclusively describes quantitative processes such as reactions. With the SBML qualitative models extension (qual), it has recently also become possible to describe relations in SBML. Before the development of SBML qual, relations could not be properly translated into SBML. Until now, there exists no BioPAX to SBML converter that is fully capable of translating both reactions and relations.
Results: The entire nature pathway interaction database has been converted from BioPAX (Level 2 and Level 3) into SBML (Level 3 Version 1) including both reactions and relations by using the new qual extension package. Additionally, we present the new webtool BioPAX2SBML for further BioPAX to SBML conversions. Compared with previous conversion tools, BioPAX2SBML is more comprehensive, more robust and more exact.
Availability: BioPAX2SBML is freely available at http://webservices.cs.uni-tuebingen.de/ and the complete collection of the PID models is available at http://www.cogsys.cs.uni-tuebingen.de/downloads/Qualitative-Models/.
Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
Motivation: LibSBGN is a software library for reading, writing and manipulating Systems Biology Graphical Notation (SBGN) maps stored using the recently developed SBGN-ML file format. The library (available in C++ and Java) makes it easy for developers to add SBGN support to their tools, whereas the file format facilitates the exchange of maps between compatible software applications. The library also supports validation of maps, which simplifies the task of ensuring compliance with the detailed SBGN specifications. With this effort we hope to increase the adoption of SBGN in bioinformatics tools, ultimately enabling more researchers to visualize biological knowledge in a precise and unambiguous manner.
Availability and implementation: Milestone 2 was released in December 2011. Source code, example files and binaries are freely available under the terms of either the LGPL v2.1+ or Apache v2.0 open source licenses from http://libsbgn.sourceforge.net.
Activation of CaMKII by calmodulin and the subsequent maintenance of constitutive activity through autophosphorylation at threonine residue 286 (Thr286) are thought to play a major role in synaptic plasticity. One of the effects of autophosphorylation at Thr286 is to increase the apparent affinity of CaMKII for calmodulin, a phenomenon known as “calmodulin trapping”. It has previously been suggested that two binding sites for calmodulin exist on CaMKII, with high and low affinities, respectively. We built structural models of calmodulin bound to both of these sites. Molecular dynamics simulation showed that while binding of calmodulin to the supposed low-affinity binding site on CaMKII is compatible with closing (and hence, inactivation) of the kinase, and could even favour it, binding to the high-affinity site is not. Stochastic simulations of a biochemical model showed that the existence of two such binding sites, one of them accessible only in the active, open conformation, would be sufficient to explain calmodulin trapping by CaMKII. We can explain the effect of CaMKII autophosphorylation at Thr286 on calmodulin trapping: It stabilises the active state and therefore makes the high-affinity binding site accessible. Crucially, a model with only one binding site where calmodulin binding and CaMKII inactivation are strictly mutually exclusive cannot reproduce calmodulin trapping. One of the predictions of our study is that calmodulin binding in itself is not sufficient for CaMKII activation, although high-affinity binding of calmodulin is.
The NEURON simulation environment is a commonly used tool to perform electrical simulation of neurons and neuronal networks. The NEURON User Interface, based on the now discontinued InterViews library, provides some limited facilities to explore models and to plot their simulation results. Other limitations include the inability to generate a three-dimensional visualization, no standard mean to save the results of simulations, or to store the model geometry within the results. Neuronvisio (http://neuronvisio.org) aims to address these deficiencies through a set of well designed python APIs and provides an improved UI, allowing users to explore and interact with the model. Neuronvisio also facilitates access to previously published models, allowing users to browse, download, and locally run NEURON models stored in ModelDB. Neuronvisio uses the matplotlib library to plot simulation results and uses the HDF standard format to store simulation results. Neuronvisio can be viewed as an extension of NEURON, facilitating typical user workflows such as model browsing, selection, download, compilation, and simulation. The 3D viewer simplifies the exploration of complex model structure, while matplotlib permits the plotting of high-quality graphs. The newly introduced ability of saving numerical results allows users to perform additional analysis on their previous simulations.
neuron model; 3D visualization; electrophysiological model; hdf storage; matplotlib integration
The Computational Modeling in Biology Network (COMBINE), is an initiative to coordinate the development of the various community standards and formats in computational systems biology and related fields. This report summarizes the activities pursued at the first annual COMBINE meeting held in Edinburgh on October 6-9 2010 and the first HARMONY hackathon, held in New York on April 18-22 2011. The first of those meetings hosted 81 attendees. Discussions covered both official COMBINE standards-(BioPAX, SBGN and SBML), as well as emerging efforts and interoperability between different formats. The second meeting, oriented towards software developers, welcomed 59 participants and witnessed many technical discussions, development of improved standards support in community software systems and conversion between the standards. Both meetings were resounding successes and showed that the field is now mature enough to develop representation formats and related standards in a coordinated manner.
The Minimum Information Required in the Annotation of Models Registry (http://www.ebi.ac.uk/miriam) provides unique, perennial and location-independent identifiers for data used in the biomedical domain. At its core is a shared catalogue of data collections, for each of which an individual namespace is created, and extensive metadata recorded. This namespace allows the generation of Uniform Resource Identifiers (URIs) to uniquely identify any record in a collection. Moreover, various services are provided to facilitate the creation and resolution of the identifiers. Since its launch in 2005, the system has evolved in terms of the structure of the identifiers provided, the software infrastructure, the number of data collections recorded, as well as the scope of the Registry itself. We describe here the new parallel identification scheme and the updated supporting software infrastructure. We also introduce the new Identifiers.org service (http://identifiers.org) that is built upon the information stored in the Registry and which provides directly resolvable identifiers, in the form of Uniform Resource Locators (URLs). The flexibility of the identification scheme and resolving system allows its use in many different fields, where unambiguous and perennial identification of data entities are necessary.
As the number of computational systems biology models increases, new methods are needed to explore their content and build connections with experimental data. In this Perspective article, the authors propose a flexible semantic framework that can help achieve these aims.
The exploding number of computational models produced by Systems Biologists over the last years is an invitation to structure and exploit this new wealth of information. Researchers would like to trace models relevant to specific scientific questions, to explore their biological content, to align and combine them, and to match them with experimental data. To automate these processes, it is essential to consider semantic annotations, which describe their biological meaning. As a prerequisite for a wide range of computational methods, we propose general and flexible similarity measures for Systems Biology models computed from semantic annotations. By using these measures and a large extensible ontology, we implement a platform that can retrieve, cluster, and align Systems Biology models and experimental data sets. At present, its major application is the search for relevant models in the BioModels Database, starting from initial models, data sets, or lists of biological concepts. Beyond similarity searches, the representation of models by semantic feature vectors may pave the way for visualisation, exploration, and statistical analysis of large collections of models and corresponding data.
BioModels database; ontology; semanticSBML; similarity measure
Summary: The specifications of the Systems Biology Markup Language (SBML) define standards for storing and exchanging computer models of biological processes in text files. In order to perform model simulations, graphical visualizations and other software manipulations, an in-memory representation of SBML is required. We developed JSBML for this purpose. In contrast to prior implementations of SBML APIs, JSBML has been designed from the ground up for the Java™ programming language, and can therefore be used on all platforms supported by a Java Runtime Environment. This offers important benefits for Java users, including the ability to distribute software as Java Web Start applications. JSBML supports all SBML Levels and Versions through Level 3 Version 1, and we have strived to maintain the highest possible degree of compatibility with the popular library libSBML. JSBML also supports modules that can facilitate the development of plugins for end user applications, as well as ease migration from a libSBML-based backend.
Availability: Source code, binaries and documentation for JSBML can be freely obtained under the terms of the LGPL 2.1 from the website http://sbml.org/Software/JSBML.
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
Schizophrenia is a multifactorial complex disease with a large impact on society. Many hypotheses have been proposed over the years to explain its causes, and genomics and functional genomic approaches may shed light on the reason behind these controversies and discrepancies. We give an overview of several approaches that have been used to identify the genetic causes and molecular phenotypes of the disease. We focus on a recent microarray analysis by Torkamani and colleagues on the evolution of regulatory networks in normal and schizophrenic brains. Combining the conclusion of that study with the prevalent hypotheses of schizophrenia, we suggest that the schizophrenic brain might resemble a juvenile brain.
Exchanging and sharing scientific results are essential for researchers in the field of computational modelling. BioModels.net defines agreed-upon standards for model curation. A fundamental one, MIRIAM (Minimum Information Requested in the Annotation of Models), standardises the annotation and curation process of quantitative models in biology. To support this standard, MIRIAM Resources maintains a set of standard data types for annotating models, and provides services for manipulating these annotations. Furthermore, BioModels.net creates controlled vocabularies, such as SBO (Systems Biology Ontology) which strictly indexes, defines and links terms used in Systems Biology. Finally, BioModels Database provides a free, centralised, publicly accessible database for storing, searching and retrieving curated and annotated computational models. Each resource provides a web interface to submit, search, retrieve and display its data. In addition, the BioModels.net team provides a set of Web Services which allows the community to programmatically access the resources. A user is then able to perform remote queries, such as retrieving a model and resolving all its MIRIAM Annotations, as well as getting the details about the associated SBO terms. These web services use established standards. Communications rely on SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) messages and the available queries are described in a WSDL (Web Services Description Language) file. Several libraries are provided in order to simplify the development of client software. BioModels.net Web Services make one step further for the researchers to simulate and understand the entirety of a biological system, by allowing them to retrieve biological models in their own tool, combine queries in workflows and efficiently analyse models.
BioModels.net; Systems Biology; modelling; Web Services; annotation; ontology
A recent article in BMC Bioinformatics describes new advances in workflow systems for computational modeling in systems biology. Such systems can accelerate, and improve the consistency of, modeling through automation not only at the simulation and results-production stages, but also at the model-generation stage. Their work is a harbinger of the next generation of more powerful software for systems biologists.
See research article: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2105/11/582/abstract/
Ever since the rise of systems biology at the end of the last century, mathematical representations of biological systems and their activities have flourished. They are being used to describe everything from biomolecular networks, such as gene regulation, metabolic processes and signaling pathways, at the lowest biological scales, to tissue growth and differentiation, drug effects, environmental interactions, and more. A very active area in the field has been the development of techniques that facilitate the construction, analysis and dissemination of computational models. The heterogeneous, distributed nature of most data resources today has increased not only the opportunities for, but also the difficulties of, developing software systems to support these tasks. The work by Li et al.  published in BMC Bioinformatics represents a promising evolutionary step forward in this area. They describe a workflow system - a visual software
environment enabling a user to create a connected set of operations to be performed sequentially using seperate tools and resources. Their system uses third-party data resources accessible over the Internet to elaborate and parametrize (that is, assign parameter values to) computational models in a semi-automated manner. In Li et al.'s work, the authors point towards a promising future for computational modeling and simultaneously highlight some of the difficulties that need to be overcome before we get there.
The study of biological systems demands computational support. If targeting a biological problem, the reuse of existing computational models can save time and effort. Deciding for potentially suitable models, however, becomes more challenging with the increasing number of computational models available, and even more when considering the models' growing complexity. Firstly, among a set of potential model candidates it is difficult to decide for the model that best suits ones needs. Secondly, it is hard to grasp the nature of an unknown model listed in a search result set, and to judge how well it fits for the particular problem one has in mind.
Here we present an improved search approach for computational models of biological processes. It is based on existing retrieval and ranking methods from Information Retrieval. The approach incorporates annotations suggested by MIRIAM, and additional meta-information. It is now part of the search engine of BioModels Database, a standard repository for computational models.
The introduced concept and implementation are, to our knowledge, the first application of Information Retrieval techniques on model search in Computational Systems Biology. Using the example of BioModels Database, it was shown that the approach is feasible and extends the current possibilities to search for relevant models. The advantages of our system over existing solutions are that we incorporate a rich set of meta-information, and that we provide the user with a relevance ranking of the models found for a query. Better search capabilities in model databases are expected to have a positive effect on the reuse of existing models.
A key component of any synthetic biology effort is the use of quantitative models. These models and their corresponding simulations allow optimization of a system design, as well as guiding their subsequent analysis. Once a domain mostly reserved for experts, dynamical modelling of gene regulatory and reaction networks has been an area of growth over the last decade. There has been a concomitant increase in the number of software tools and standards, thereby facilitating model exchange and reuse. We give here an overview of the model creation and analysis processes as well as some software tools in common use. Using markup language to encode the model and associated annotation, we describe the mining of components, their integration in relational models, formularization and parametrization. Evaluation of simulation results and validation of the model close the systems biology ‘loop’.
synthetic biology; systems biology markup language; computational biology
Long-Term Potentiation (LTP) of synapses is thought to be due in part to a change in AMPA Receptor trafficking leading to an increase in the number of AMPA Receptors at the synapse. LTP onset occurs within seconds after the induction signal. A particle-based stochastic simulation software is used to investigate the effect of Brownian diffusion of glutamate receptors on receptor incorporation into the synaptic specialisation and the time-course of LTP expression. The model of the dendritic spine includes receptors diffusing within the membrane, scaffold molecules within the synaptic specialisation capable of binding receptors and a molecular picket-fence surrounding the synaptic membrane area, all features found within the biological system.
During simulations, receptors accumulate rapidly at the post-synaptic density (PSD) from the extra-synaptic membrane under a number of biologically observed conditions. The time of half-saturation, t1/2, defined as the time-point at which half the available scaffold proteins are occupied with receptors, is found to be 710 ms. Different scaffold distributions are shown to have little effect on this time-course. Decreasing the probability of escape of receptors from the PSD domain, thus localising receptors closer to the scaffold proteins, substantially decreases t1/2. A decrease of escape probability from 1 to 0 brings about a non-linear decrease in t1/2 from 710 ms to 390 ms. Release-location of receptors within the spine is found to affect the initial rate of receptor incorporation. We simulate three possible sources of receptors: (i) receptors distributed within the spine extra-synaptic membrane; (ii) receptors from exocytotic vesicles released to the synaptic spine; and (iii) receptors entering the spine from the dendritic shaft through the spine neck. Receptors released from exocytotic vesicles initially accumulate faster than receptors released from the other two sources. A model of glutamate release and glutamate-receptor interaction shows that newly inserted receptors make a substantial contribution to a glutamate evoked response within the observed time-frame.
Fast accumulation of AMPA Receptors is consistent with experimentally observed fast onset of LTP expression.
Most cellular signal transduction mechanisms depend on a few molecular partners whose roles depend on their position and movement in relation to the input signal. This movement can follow various rules and take place in different compartments. Additionally, the molecules can form transient complexes. Complexation and signal transduction depend on the specific states partners and complexes adopt. Several spatial simulator have been developed to date, but none are able to model reaction-diffusion of realistic multi-state transient complexes.
Meredys allows for the simulation of multi-component, multi-feature state molecular species in two and three dimensions. Several compartments can be defined with different diffusion and boundary properties. The software employs a Brownian dynamics engine to simulate reaction-diffusion systems at the reactive particle level, based on compartment properties, complex structure, and hydro-dynamic radii. Zeroth-, first-, and second order reactions are supported. The molecular complexes have realistic geometries. Reactive species can contain user-defined feature states which can modify reaction rates and outcome. Models are defined in a versatile NeuroML input file. The simulation volume can be split in subvolumes to speed up run-time.
Meredys provides a powerful and versatile way to run accurate simulations of molecular and sub-cellular systems, that complement existing multi-agent simulation systems. Meredys is a Free Software and the source code is available at http://meredys.sourceforge.net/.
Biological signal transduction commonly involves cooperative interactions in the binding of ligands to their receptors. In many cases, ligand concentrations in vivo are close to the value of the dissociation constant of their receptors, resulting in the phenomenon of ligand depletion. Using examples based on rotational bias of bacterial flagellar motors and calcium binding to mammalian calmodulin, we show that ligand depletion diminishes cooperativity and broadens the dynamic range of sensitivity to the signaling ligand. As a result, the same signal transducer responds to different ranges of signal with various degrees of cooperativity according to its effective cellular concentration. Hence, results from in vitro dose-response analyses cannot be applied directly to understand signaling in vivo. Moreover, the receptor concentration is revealed to be a key element in controlling signal transduction and we propose that its modulation constitutes a new way of controlling sensitivity to signals. In addition, through an analysis of the allosteric enzyme aspartate transcarbamylase, we demonstrate that the classical Hill coefficient is not appropriate for characterizing the change in conformational state upon ligand binding to an oligomeric protein (equivalent to a dose-response curve), because it ignores the cooperativity of the conformational change for the corresponding equivalent monomers, which are generally characterized by a Hill coefficient . Therefore, we propose a new index of cooperativity based on the comparison of the properties of oligomers and their equivalent monomers.
Modellers using the MWC allosteric framework have often found it difficult to validate their models. Indeed many experiments are not conducted with the notion of alternative conformations in mind and therefore do not (or cannot) measure relevant microscopic constant and parameters. Instead, experimentalists widely use the Adair-Klotz approach in order to describe their experimental data.
We propose a way of computing apparent Adair-Klotz constants from microscopic association constants and allosteric parameters of a generalised concerted model with two different states (R and T), with an arbitrary number of non-equivalent ligand binding sites. We apply this framework to compute Adair-Klotz constants from existing models of calmodulin and hemoglobin, two extreme cases of the general framework.
The validation of computational models requires methods to relate model parameters to experimentally observable quantities. We provide such a method for comparing generalised MWC allosteric models to experimentally determined Adair-Klotz constants.
The Minimal Information Requested In the Annotation of biochemical Models (MIRIAM) is a set of guidelines for the annotation and curation processes of computational models, in order to facilitate their exchange and reuse. An important part of the standard consists in the controlled annotation of model components, based on Uniform Resource Identifiers. In order to enable interoperability of this annotation, the community has to agree on a set of standard URIs, corresponding to recognised data types. MIRIAM Resources are being developed to support the use of those URIs.
MIRIAM Resources are a set of on-line services created to catalogue data types, their URIs and the corresponding physical URLs (or resources), whether data types are controlled vocabularies or primary data resources. MIRIAM Resources are composed of several components: MIRIAM Database stores the information, MIRIAM Web Services allows to programmatically access the database, MIRIAM Library provides an access to the Web Services and MIRIAM Web Application is a way to access the data (human browsing) and also to edit or add entries.
The project MIRIAM Resources allows an easy access to MIRIAM URIs and the associated information and is therefore crucial to foster a general use of MIRIAM annotations in computational models of biological processes.
Computational neurobiology was born over half a century ago, and has since been consistently at the forefront of modelling in biology. The recent progress of computing power and distributed computing allows the building of models spanning several scales, from the synapse to the brain. Initially focused on electrical processes, the simulation of neuronal function now encompasses signalling pathways and ion diffusion. The flow of quantitative data generated by the "omics" approaches, alongside the progress of live imaging, allows the development of models that will also include gene regulatory networks, protein movements and cellular remodelling. A systems biology of brain functions and disorders can now be envisioned. As it did for the last half century, neuroscience can drive forward the field of systems biology.
The need to build a tool to facilitate the quick creation and editing of models encoded in the Systems Biology Markup language (SBML) has been growing with the number of users and the increased complexity of the language. SBMLeditor tries to answer this need by providing a very simple, low level editor of SBML files. Users can create and remove all the necessary bits and pieces of SBML in a controlled way, that maintains the validity of the final SBML file.
SBMLeditor is written in JAVA using JCompneur, a library providing interfaces to easily display an XML document as a tree. This decreases dramatically the development time for a new XML editor. The possibility to include custom dialogs for different tags allows a lot of freedom for the editing and validation of the document. In addition to Xerces, SBMLeditor uses libSBML to check the validity and consistency of SBML files. A graphical equation editor allows an easy manipulation of MathML. SBMLeditor can be used as a module of the Systems Biology Workbench.
SBMLeditor contains many improvements compared to a generic XML editor, and allow users to create an SBML model quickly and without syntactic errors.
The field of Computational Systems Neurobiology is maturing quickly. If one wants it to fulfil its central role in the new Integrative Neurobiology, the reuse of quantitative models needs to be facilitated. The community has to develop standards and guidelines in order to maximise the diffusion of its scientific production, but also to render it more trustworthy. In the recent years, various projects tackled the problems of the syntax and semantics of quantitative models. More recently the international initiative BioModels.net launched three projects: (1) MIRIAM is a standard to curate and annotate models, in order to facilitate their reuse. (2) The Systems Biology Ontology is a set of controlled vocabularies aimed to be used in conjunction with models, in order to characterise their components. (3) BioModels Database is a resource that allows biologists to store, search and retrieve published mathematical models of biological interests. We expect that those resources, together with the use of formal languages such as SBML, will support the fruitful exchange and reuse of quantitative models.