Background
Stochastic simulation has become a useful tool to both study natural biological systems and design new synthetic ones. By capturing the intrinsic molecular fluctuations of "small" systems, these simulations produce a more accurate picture of single cell dynamics, including interesting phenomena missed by deterministic methods, such as noise-induced oscillations and transitions between stable states. However, the computational cost of the original stochastic simulation algorithm can be high, motivating the use of hybrid stochastic methods. Hybrid stochastic methods partition the system into multiple subsets and describe each subset as a different representation, such as a jump Markov, Poisson, continuous Markov, or deterministic process. By applying valid approximations and self-consistently merging disparate descriptions, a method can be considerably faster, while retaining accuracy. In this paper, we describe Hy3S, a collection of multiscale simulation programs.
Results
Building on our previous work on developing novel hybrid stochastic algorithms, we have created the Hy3S software package to enable scientists and engineers to both study and design extremely large well-mixed biological systems with many thousands of reactions and chemical species. We have added adaptive stochastic numerical integrators to permit the robust simulation of dynamically stiff biological systems. In addition, Hy3S has many useful features, including embarrassingly parallelized simulations with MPI; special discrete events, such as transcriptional and translation elongation and cell division; mid-simulation perturbations in both the number of molecules of species and reaction kinetic parameters; combinatorial variation of both initial conditions and kinetic parameters to enable sensitivity analysis; use of NetCDF optimized binary format to quickly read and write large datasets; and a simple graphical user interface, written in Matlab, to help users create biological systems and analyze data. We demonstrate the accuracy and efficiency of Hy3S with examples, including a large-scale system benchmark and a complex bistable biochemical network with positive feedback. The software itself is open-sourced under the GPL license and is modular, allowing users to modify it for their own purposes.
Conclusion
Hy3S is a powerful suite of simulation programs for simulating the stochastic dynamics of networks of biochemical reactions. Its first public version enables computational biologists to more efficiently investigate the dynamics of realistic biological systems.