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1.  Modeling the Mechanism of GR/c-Jun/Erg Crosstalk in Apoptosis of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia 
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is one of the most common forms of malignancy that occurs in lymphoid progenitor cells, particularly in children. Synthetic steroid hormones glucocorticoids (GCs) are widely used as part of the ALL treatment regimens due to their apoptotic function, but their use also brings about various side effects and drug resistance. The identification of the molecular differences between the GCs responsive and resistant cells therefore are essential to decipher such complexity and can be used to improve therapy. However, the emerging picture is complicated as the activities of genes and proteins involved are controlled by multiple factors. By adopting the systems biology framework to address this issue, we here integrated the available knowledge together with experimental data by building a series of mathematical models. This rationale enabled us to unravel molecular interactions involving c-Jun in GC induced apoptosis and identify Ets-related gene (Erg) as potential biomarker of GC resistance. The results revealed an alternative possible mechanism where c-Jun may be an indirect GR target that is controlled via an upstream repressor protein. The models also highlight the importance of Erg for GR function, particularly in GC sensitive C7 cells where Erg directly regulates GR in agreement with our previous experimental results. Our models describe potential GR-controlled molecular mechanisms of c-Jun/Bim and Erg regulation. We also demonstrate the importance of using a systematic approach to translate human disease processes into computational models in order to derive information-driven new hypotheses.
PMCID: PMC3500877  PMID: 23181019
glucocorticoid receptor; gene expression; kinetic simulation; systems biology; dynamic model
2.  PathNER: a tool for systematic identification of biological pathway mentions in the literature 
BMC Systems Biology  2013;7(Suppl 3):S2.
Biological pathways are central to many biomedical studies and are frequently discussed in the literature. Several curated databases have been established to collate the knowledge of molecular processes constituting pathways. Yet, there has been little focus on enabling systematic detection of pathway mentions in the literature.
We developed a tool, named PathNER (Pathway Named Entity Recognition), for the systematic identification of pathway mentions in the literature. PathNER is based on soft dictionary matching and rules, with the dictionary generated from public pathway databases. The rules utilise general pathway-specific keywords, syntactic information and gene/protein mentions. Detection results from both components are merged. On a gold-standard corpus, PathNER achieved an F1-score of 84%. To illustrate its potential, we applied PathNER on a collection of articles related to Alzheimer's disease to identify associated pathways, highlighting cases that can complement an existing manually curated knowledgebase.
In contrast to existing text-mining efforts that target the automatic reconstruction of pathway details from molecular interactions mentioned in the literature, PathNER focuses on identifying specific named pathway mentions. These mentions can be used to support large-scale curation and pathway-related systems biology applications, as demonstrated in the example of Alzheimer's disease. PathNER is implemented in Java and made freely available online at
PMCID: PMC3852116  PMID: 24555844
Biological pathway mentions; text mining; Alzheimer's pathways; systems biology
3.  Construction of a Genome-Scale Kinetic Model of Mycobacterium Tuberculosis Using Generic Rate Equations 
Metabolites  2012;2(3):382-397.
The study of biological systems at the genome scale helps us understand fundamental biological processes that govern the activity of living organisms and regulate their interactions with the environment. Genome-scale metabolic models are usually analysed using constraint-based methods, since detailed rate equations and kinetic parameters are often missing. However, constraint-based analysis is limited in capturing the dynamics of cellular processes. In this paper, we present an approach to build a genome-scale kinetic model of Mycobacterium tuberculosis metabolism using generic rate equations. M. tuberculosis causes tuberculosis which remains one of the largest killer infectious diseases. Using a genetic algorithm, we estimated kinetic parameters for a genome-scale metabolic model of M. tuberculosis based on flux distributions derived from Flux Balance Analysis. Our results show that an excellent agreement with flux values is obtained under several growth conditions, although kinetic parameters may vary in different conditions. Parameter variability analysis indicates that a high degree of redundancy remains present in model parameters, which suggests that the integration of other types of high-throughput datasets will enable the development of better constrained models accounting for a variety of in vivo phenotypes.
PMCID: PMC3901218  PMID: 24957639
tuberculosis; metabolism, kinetic model; systems biology
4.  Exploring the genetic control of glycolytic oscillations in Saccharomyces Cerevisiae 
BMC Systems Biology  2012;6:108.
A well known example of oscillatory phenomena is the transient oscillations of glycolytic intermediates in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, their regulation being predominantly investigated by mathematical modeling. To our knowledge there has not been a genetic approach to elucidate the regulatory role of the different enzymes of the glycolytic pathway.
We report that the laboratory strain BY4743 could also be used to investigate this oscillatory phenomenon, which traditionally has been studied using S. cerevisiae X2180. This has enabled us to employ existing isogenic deletion mutants and dissect the roles of isoforms, or subunits of key glycolytic enzymes in glycolytic oscillations. We demonstrate that deletion of TDH3 but not TDH2 and TDH1 (encoding glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase: GAPDH) abolishes NADH oscillations. While deletion of each of the hexokinase (HK) encoding genes (HXK1 and HXK2) leads to oscillations that are longer lasting with lower amplitude, the effect of HXK2 deletion on the duration of the oscillations is stronger than that of HXK1. Most importantly our results show that the presence of beta (Pfk2) but not that of alpha subunits (Pfk1) of the hetero-octameric enzyme phosphofructokinase (PFK) is necessary to achieve these oscillations. Furthermore, we report that the cAMP-mediated PKA pathway (via some of its components responsible for feedback down-regulation) modulates the activity of glycoytic enzymes thus affecting oscillations. Deletion of both PDE2 (encoding a high affinity cAMP-phosphodiesterase) and IRA2 (encoding a GTPase activating protein- Ras-GAP, responsible for inactivating Ras-GTP) abolished glycolytic oscillations.
The genetic approach to characterising the glycolytic oscillations in yeast has demonstrated differential roles of the two types of subunits of PFK, and the isoforms of GAPDH and HK. Furthermore, it has shown that PDE2 and IRA2, encoding components of the cAMP pathway responsible for negative feedback regulation of PKA, are required for glycolytic oscillations, suggesting an enticing link between these cAMP pathway components and the glycolysis pathway enzymes shown to have the greatest role in glycolytic oscillation. This study suggests that a systematic genetic approach combined with mathematical modelling can advance the study of oscillatory phenomena.
PMCID: PMC3497587  PMID: 22920924
Glycolytic oscillations; Saccharomyces cerevisiae; deletion mutants; cAMP-PKA signal transduction pathway
5.  Comprehensive Modelling of the Neurospora Circadian Clock and Its Temperature Compensation 
PLoS Computational Biology  2012;8(3):e1002437.
Circadian clocks provide an internal measure of external time allowing organisms to anticipate and exploit predictable daily changes in the environment. Rhythms driven by circadian clocks have a temperature compensated periodicity of approximately 24 hours that persists in constant conditions and can be reset by environmental time cues. Computational modelling has aided our understanding of the molecular mechanisms of circadian clocks, nevertheless it remains a major challenge to integrate the large number of clock components and their interactions into a single, comprehensive model that is able to account for the full breadth of clock phenotypes. Here we present a comprehensive dynamic model of the Neurospora crassa circadian clock that incorporates its key components and their transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulation. The model accounts for a wide range of clock characteristics including: a periodicity of 21.6 hours, persistent oscillation in constant conditions, arrhythmicity in constant light, resetting by brief light pulses, and entrainment to full photoperiods. Crucial components influencing the period and amplitude of oscillations were identified by control analysis. Furthermore, simulations enabled us to propose a mechanism for temperature compensation, which is achieved by simultaneously increasing the translation of frq RNA and decreasing the nuclear import of FRQ protein.
Author Summary
Circadian clocks are internal timekeepers that integrate signals from the environment and orchestrate cellular events to occur at the most favourable time of day. Circadian clocks in animals, plants, fungi and bacteria have similar characteristic properties and molecular architecture. They have a periodicity of approximately 24 hours, persist in constant conditions and can be reset by environmental time cues such as light and temperature. Another essential property, whose molecular basis is poorly understood, is that the period is temperature compensated i.e. it remains the same over a range of temperatures. Computational modelling has become a valuable tool to predict and understand the underlying mechanisms of such complex molecular systems, but existing clock models are often restricted in the scope of molecular reactions they cover and in the breadth of conditions they are able to reproduce. We therefore built a comprehensive model of the circadian clock of the fungus Neurospora crassa, which encompasses existing knowledge of the biochemistry of the Neurospora clock. We validated this model against a wide range of experimental phenotypes and then used the model to investigate possible molecular explanations of temperature compensation. Our simulations suggest that temperature compensation of period is achieved by changing the abundance and cellular localisation of a key clock protein.
PMCID: PMC3320131  PMID: 22496627
6.  Integration of metabolic databases for the reconstruction of genome-scale metabolic networks 
BMC Systems Biology  2010;4:114.
Genome-scale metabolic reconstructions have been recognised as a valuable tool for a variety of applications ranging from metabolic engineering to evolutionary studies. However, the reconstruction of such networks remains an arduous process requiring a high level of human intervention. This process is further complicated by occurrences of missing or conflicting information and the absence of common annotation standards between different data sources.
In this article, we report a semi-automated methodology aimed at streamlining the process of metabolic network reconstruction by enabling the integration of different genome-wide databases of metabolic reactions. We present results obtained by applying this methodology to the metabolic network of the plant Arabidopsis thaliana. A systematic comparison of compounds and reactions between two genome-wide databases allowed us to obtain a high-quality core consensus reconstruction, which was validated for stoichiometric consistency. A lower level of consensus led to a larger reconstruction, which has a lower quality standard but provides a baseline for further manual curation.
This semi-automated methodology may be applied to other organisms and help to streamline the process of genome-scale network reconstruction in order to accelerate the transfer of such models to applications.
PMCID: PMC2930596  PMID: 20712863
7.  Deterministic mathematical models of the cAMP pathway in Saccharomyces cerevisiae 
BMC Systems Biology  2009;3:70.
Cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) has a key signaling role in all eukaryotic organisms. In Saccharomyces cerevisiae, it is the second messenger in the Ras/PKA pathway which regulates nutrient sensing, stress responses, growth, cell cycle progression, morphogenesis, and cell wall biosynthesis. A stochastic model of the pathway has been reported.
We have created deterministic mathematical models of the PKA module of the pathway, as well as the complete cAMP pathway. First, a simplified conceptual model was created which reproduced the dynamics of changes in cAMP levels in response to glucose addition in wild-type as well as cAMP phosphodiesterase deletion mutants. This model was used to investigate the role of the regulatory Krh proteins that had not been included previously. The Krh-containing conceptual model reproduced very well the experimental evidence supporting the role of Krh as a direct inhibitor of PKA. These results were used to develop the Complete cAMP Model. Upon simulation it illustrated several important features of the yeast cAMP pathway: Pde1p is more important than is Pde2p for controlling the cAMP levels following glucose pulses; the proportion of active PKA is not directly proportional to the cAMP level, allowing PKA to exert negative feedback; negative feedback mechanisms include activating Pde1p and deactivating Ras2 via phosphorylation of Cdc25. The Complete cAMP model is easier to simulate, and although significantly simpler than the existing stochastic one, it recreates cAMP levels and patterns of changes in cAMP levels observed experimentally in vivo in response to glucose addition in wild-type as well as representative mutant strains such as pde1Δ, pde2Δ, cyr1Δ, and others. The complete model is made available in SBML format.
We suggest that the lower number of reactions and parameters makes these models suitable for integrating them with models of metabolism or of the cell cycle in S. cerevisiae. Similar models could be also useful for studies in the human pathogen Candida albicans as well as other less well-characterized fungal species.
PMCID: PMC2719611  PMID: 19607691
8.  Local and global modes of drug action in biochemical networks 
It is becoming increasingly accepted that a shift is needed from the traditional target-based approach of drug development towards an integrated perspective of drug action in biochemical systems. To make this change possible, the interaction networks connecting drug targets to all components of biological systems must be identified and characterized.
We here present an integrative analysis of the interactions between drugs and metabolism by introducing the concept of metabolic drug scope. The metabolic drug scope represents the full set of metabolic compounds and reactions that are potentially affected by a drug. We constructed and analyzed the scopes of all US approved drugs having metabolic targets. Our analysis shows that the distribution of metabolic drug scopes is highly uneven, and that drugs can be classified into several categories based on their scopes. Some of them have small scopes corresponding to localized action, while others have large scopes corresponding to potential large-scale systemic action. These groups are well conserved throughout different topologies of the underlying metabolic network. They can furthermore be associated to specific drug therapeutic properties.
These findings demonstrate the relevance of metabolic drug scopes to the characterization of drug-metabolism interactions and to understanding the mechanisms of drug action in a system-wide context.
PMCID: PMC2670818  PMID: 19351397
9.  A global view of drug-therapy interactions 
BMC Pharmacology  2008;8:5.
Network science is already making an impact on the study of complex systems and offers a promising variety of tools to understand their formation and evolution in many disparate fields from technological networks to biological systems. Even though new high-throughput technologies have rapidly been generating large amounts of genomic data, drug design has not followed the same development, and it is still complicated and expensive to develop new single-target drugs. Nevertheless, recent approaches suggest that multi-target drug design combined with a network-dependent approach and large-scale systems-oriented strategies create a promising framework to combat complex multi-genetic disorders like cancer or diabetes.
We here investigate the human network corresponding to the interactions between all US approved drugs and human therapies, defined by known relationships between drugs and their therapeutic applications. Our results show that the average paths in this drug-therapy network are shorter than three steps, indicating that distant therapies are separated by a surprisingly low number of chemical compounds. We also identify a sub-network composed by drugs with high centrality measures in the drug-therapy network, which represent the structural backbone of this system and act as hubs routing information between distant parts of the network.
These findings provide for the first time a global map of the large-scale organization of all known drugs and associated therapies, bringing new insights on possible strategies for future drug development. Special attention should be given to drugs which combine the two properties of (a) having a high centrality value in the drug-therapy network and (b) acting on multiple molecular targets in the human system.
PMCID: PMC2294115  PMID: 18318892
10.  Observing metabolic functions at the genome scale 
Genome Biology  2007;8(6):R123.
A modular approach is presented that allows the observation of the transcriptional activity of metabolic functions at the genome scale.
High-throughput techniques have multiplied the amount and the types of available biological data, and for the first time achieving a global comprehension of the physiology of biological cells has become an achievable goal. This aim requires the integration of large amounts of heterogeneous data at different scales. It is notably necessary to extend the traditional focus on genomic data towards a truly functional focus, where the activity of cells is described in terms of actual metabolic processes performing the functions necessary for cells to live.
In this work, we present a new approach for metabolic analysis that allows us to observe the transcriptional activity of metabolic functions at the genome scale. These functions are described in terms of elementary modes, which can be computed in a genome-scale model thanks to a modular approach. We exemplify this new perspective by presenting a detailed analysis of the transcriptional metabolic response of yeast cells to stress. The integration of elementary mode analysis with gene expression data allows us to identify a number of functionally induced or repressed metabolic processes in different stress conditions. The assembly of these elementary modes leads to the identification of specific metabolic backbones.
This study opens a new framework for the cell-scale analysis of metabolism, where transcriptional activity can be analyzed in terms of whole processes instead of individual genes. We furthermore show that the set of active elementary modes exhibits a highly uneven organization, where most of them conduct specialized tasks while a smaller proportion performs multi-task functions and dominates the general stress response.
PMCID: PMC2394767  PMID: 17594483
11.  Dynamics of DNA Damage Induced Pathways to Cancer 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e72303.
Chemotherapy is commonly used in cancer treatments, however only 25% of cancers are responsive and a significant proportion develops resistance. The p53 tumour suppressor is crucial for cancer development and therapy, but has been less amenable to therapeutic applications due to the complexity of its action, reflected in 66,000 papers describing its function. Here we provide a systematic approach to integrate this information by constructing a large-scale logical model of the p53 interactome using extensive database and literature integration. The model contains 206 nodes representing genes or proteins, DNA damage input, apoptosis and cellular senescence outputs, connected by 738 logical interactions. Predictions from in silico knock-outs and steady state model analysis were validated using literature searches and in vitro based experiments. We identify an upregulation of Chk1, ATM and ATR pathways in p53 negative cells and 61 other predictions obtained by knockout tests mimicking mutations. The comparison of model simulations with microarray data demonstrated a significant rate of successful predictions ranging between 52% and 71% depending on the cancer type. Growth factors and receptors FGF2, IGF1R, PDGFRB and TGFA were identified as factors contributing selectively to the control of U2OS osteosarcoma and HCT116 colon cancer cell growth. In summary, we provide the proof of principle that this versatile and predictive model has vast potential for use in cancer treatment by identifying pathways in individual patients that contribute to tumour growth, defining a sub population of “high” responders and identification of shifts in pathways leading to chemotherapy resistance.
PMCID: PMC3762865  PMID: 24023735
12.  Modularity in Protein Complex and Drug Interactions Reveals New Polypharmacological Properties 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(1):e30028.
Recent studies have highlighted the importance of interconnectivity in a large range of molecular and human disease-related systems. Network medicine has emerged as a new paradigm to deal with complex diseases. Connections between protein complexes and key diseases have been suggested for decades. However, it was not until recently that protein complexes were identified and classified in sufficient amounts to carry out a large-scale analysis of the human protein complex system. We here present the first systematic and comprehensive set of relationships between protein complexes and associated drugs and analyzed their topological features. The network structure is characterized by a high modularity, both in the bipartite graph and in its projections, indicating that its topology is highly distinct from a random network and that it contains a rich and heterogeneous internal modular structure. To unravel the relationships between modules of protein complexes, drugs and diseases, we investigated in depth the origins of this modular structure in examples of particular diseases. This analysis unveils new associations between diseases and protein complexes and highlights the potential role of polypharmacological drugs, which target multiple cellular functions to combat complex diseases driven by gain-of-function mutations.
PMCID: PMC3261189  PMID: 22279562
13.  Quantitative elementary mode analysis of metabolic pathways: the example of yeast glycolysis 
BMC Bioinformatics  2006;7:186.
Elementary mode analysis of metabolic pathways has proven to be a valuable tool for assessing the properties and functions of biochemical systems. However, little comprehension of how individual elementary modes are used in real cellular states has been achieved so far. A quantitative measure of fluxes carried by individual elementary modes is of great help to identify dominant metabolic processes, and to understand how these processes are redistributed in biological cells in response to changes in environmental conditions, enzyme kinetics, or chemical concentrations.
Selecting a valid decomposition of a flux distribution onto a set of elementary modes is not straightforward, since there is usually an infinite number of possible such decompositions. We first show that two recently introduced decompositions are very closely related and assign the same fluxes to reversible elementary modes. Then, we show how such decompositions can be used in combination with kinetic modelling to assess the effects of changes in enzyme kinetics on the usage of individual metabolic routes, and to analyse the range of attainable states in a metabolic system. This approach is illustrated by the example of yeast glycolysis. Our results indicate that only a small subset of the space of stoichiometrically feasible steady states is actually reached by the glycolysis system, even when large variation intervals are allowed for all kinetic parameters of the model. Among eight possible elementary modes, the standard glycolytic route remains dominant in all cases, and only one other elementary mode is able to gain significant flux values in steady state.
These results indicate that a combination of structural and kinetic modelling significantly constrains the range of possible behaviours of a metabolic system. All elementary modes are not equal contributors to physiological cellular states, and this approach may open a direction toward a broader identification of physiologically relevant elementary modes among the very large number of stoichiometrically possible modes.
PMCID: PMC1508158  PMID: 16584566
14.  G Protein β Subunit–null Mutants Are Impaired in Phagocytosis and Chemotaxis Due to Inappropriate Regulation of the Actin Cytoskeleton  
The Journal of Cell Biology  1998;141(7):1529-1537.
Chemotaxis and phagocytosis are basically similar in cells of the immune system and in Dictyostelium amebae. Deletion of the unique G protein β subunit in D. discoideum impaired phagocytosis but had little effect on fluid-phase endocytosis, cytokinesis, or random motility. Constitutive expression of wild-type β subunit restored phagocytosis and normal development. Chemoattractants released by cells or bacteria trigger typical transient actin polymerization responses in wild-type cells. In β subunit–null cells, and in a series of β subunit point mutants, these responses were impaired to a degree that correlated with the defect in phagocytosis. Image analysis of green fluorescent protein–actin transfected cells showed that β subunit– null cells were defective in reshaping the actin network into a phagocytic cup, and eventually a phagosome, in response to particle attachment. Our results indicate that signaling through heterotrimeric G proteins is required for regulating the actin cytoskeleton during phagocytic uptake, as previously shown for chemotaxis. Inhibitors of phospholipase C and intracellular Ca2+ mobilization inhibited phagocytosis, suggesting the possible involvement of these effectors in the process.
PMCID: PMC2133009  PMID: 9647646
15.  Three-dimensional Patterns and Redistribution of Myosin II and Actin in Mitotic Dictyostelium Cells  
The Journal of Cell Biology  1997;139(7):1793-1804.
Myosin II is not essential for cytokinesis in cells of Dictyostelium discoideum that are anchored on a substrate (Neujahr, R., C. Heizer, and G. Gerisch. 1997. J. Cell Sci. 110:123–137), in contrast to its importance for cell division in suspension (DeLozanne, A., and J.A. Spudich. 1987. Science. 236:1086–1091; Knecht, D.A., and W.F. Loomis. 1987. Science. 236: 1081–1085.). These differences have prompted us to investigate the three-dimensional distribution of myosin II in cells dividing under one of three conditions: (a) in shaken suspension, (b) in a fluid layer on a solid substrate surface, and (c) under mechanical stress applied by compressing the cells. Under the first and second conditions outlined above, myosin II does not form patterns that suggest a contractile ring is established in the furrow. Most of the myosin II is concentrated in the regions that flank the furrow on both sides towards the poles of the dividing cell. It is only when cells are compressed that myosin II extensively accumulates in the cleavage furrow, as has been previously described (Fukui, Y., T.J. Lynch, H. Brzeska, and E.D. Korn. 1989. Nature. 341:328–331), i.e., this massive accumulation is a response to the mechanical stress. Evidence is provided that the stress-associated translocation of myosin II to the cell cortex is a result of the dephosphorylation of its heavy chains. F-actin is localized in the dividing cells in a distinctly different pattern from that of myosin II. The F-actin is shown to accumulate primarily in protrusions at the two poles that ultimately form the leading edges of the daughter cells. This distribution changes dynamically as visualized in living cells with a green fluorescent protein–actin fusion.
PMCID: PMC2132646  PMID: 9412473
16.  Environmental systems biology of cold-tolerant phenotype in Saccharomyces species adapted to grow at different temperatures 
Molecular Ecology  2014;23(21):5241-5257.
Temperature is one of the leading factors that drive adaptation of organisms and ecosystems. Remarkably, many closely related species share the same habitat because of their different temporal or micro-spatial thermal adaptation. In this study, we seek to find the underlying molecular mechanisms of the cold-tolerant phenotype of closely related yeast species adapted to grow at different temperatures, namely S. kudriavzevii CA111 (cryo-tolerant) and S. cerevisiae 96.2 (thermo-tolerant). Using two different systems approaches, i. thermodynamic-based analysis of a genome-scale metabolic model of S. cerevisiae and ii. large-scale competition experiment of the yeast heterozygote mutant collection, genes and pathways important for the growth at low temperature were identified. In particular, defects in lipid metabolism, oxidoreductase and vitamin pathways affected yeast fitness at cold. Combining the data from both studies, a list of candidate genes was generated and mutants for two predicted cold-favouring genes, GUT2 and ADH3, were created in two natural isolates. Compared with the parental strains, these mutants showed lower fitness at cold temperatures, with S. kudriavzevii displaying the strongest defect. Strikingly, in S. kudriavzevii, these mutations also significantly improve the growth at warm temperatures. In addition, overexpression of ADH3 in S. cerevisiae increased its fitness at cold. These results suggest that temperature-induced redox imbalances could be compensated by increased glycerol accumulation or production of cytosolic acetaldehyde through the deletion of GUT2 or ADH3, respectively.
PMCID: PMC4283049  PMID: 25243355
adaptation; Saccharomyces kudriavzevii; systems biology; temperature; thermodynamics

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