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1.  Compartmentation of glycogen metabolism revealed from 13C isotopologue distributions 
BMC Systems Biology  2011;5:175.
Background
Stable isotope tracers are used to assess metabolic flux profiles in living cells. The existing methods of measurement average out the isotopic isomer distribution in metabolites throughout the cell, whereas the knowledge of compartmental organization of analyzed pathways is crucial for the evaluation of true fluxes. That is why we accepted a challenge to create a software tool that allows deciphering the compartmentation of metabolites based on the analysis of average isotopic isomer distribution.
Results
The software Isodyn, which simulates the dynamics of isotopic isomer distribution in central metabolic pathways, was supplemented by algorithms facilitating the transition between various analyzed metabolic schemes, and by the tools for model discrimination. It simulated 13C isotope distributions in glucose, lactate, glutamate and glycogen, measured by mass spectrometry after incubation of hepatocytes in the presence of only labeled glucose or glucose and lactate together (with label either in glucose or lactate). The simulations assumed either a single intracellular hexose phosphate pool, or also channeling of hexose phosphates resulting in a different isotopic composition of glycogen. Model discrimination test was applied to check the consistency of both models with experimental data. Metabolic flux profiles, evaluated with the accepted model that assumes channeling, revealed the range of changes in metabolic fluxes in liver cells.
Conclusions
The analysis of compartmentation of metabolic networks based on the measured 13C distribution was included in Isodyn as a routine procedure. The advantage of this implementation is that, being a part of evaluation of metabolic fluxes, it does not require additional experiments to study metabolic compartmentation. The analysis of experimental data revealed that the distribution of measured 13C-labeled glucose metabolites is inconsistent with the idea of perfect mixing of hexose phosphates in cytosol. In contrast, the observed distribution indicates the presence of a separate pool of hexose phosphates that is channeled towards glycogen synthesis.
doi:10.1186/1752-0509-5-175
PMCID: PMC3292525  PMID: 22034837
2.  A Systems Biology Approach Identifies Molecular Networks Defining Skeletal Muscle Abnormalities in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease 
PLoS Computational Biology  2011;7(9):e1002129.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is an inflammatory process of the lung inducing persistent airflow limitation. Extensive systemic effects, such as skeletal muscle dysfunction, often characterize these patients and severely limit life expectancy. Despite considerable research efforts, the molecular basis of muscle degeneration in COPD is still a matter of intense debate. In this study, we have applied a network biology approach to model the relationship between muscle molecular and physiological response to training and systemic inflammatory mediators. Our model shows that failure to co-ordinately activate expression of several tissue remodelling and bioenergetics pathways is a specific landmark of COPD diseased muscles. Our findings also suggest that this phenomenon may be linked to an abnormal expression of a number of histone modifiers, which we discovered correlate with oxygen utilization. These observations raised the interesting possibility that cell hypoxia may be a key factor driving skeletal muscle degeneration in COPD patients.
Author Summary
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a major life threatening disease of the lungs, characterized by airflow limitation and chronic inflammation. Progressive reduction of the body muscle mass is a condition linked to COPD that significantly decreases quality of life and survival. Physical exercise has been proposed as a therapeutic option but its utility is still a matter of debate. The mechanisms underlying muscle wasting are also still largely unknown. The results presented in this paper show that diseased muscles are largely unable to coordinate the expression of muscle remodelling and bioenergetics pathways and that the cause of this phenomena may be tissue hypoxia. These findings contrast with current hypotheses based on the role of chronic inflammation and show that a mechanism based on an oxygen driven, epigenetic control of these two important functions may be an important disease mechanism.
doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002129
PMCID: PMC3164707  PMID: 21909251
3.  Systems medicine and integrated care to combat chronic noncommunicable diseases 
Genome Medicine  2011;3(7):43.
We propose an innovative, integrated, cost-effective health system to combat major non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including cardiovascular, chronic respiratory, metabolic, rheumatologic and neurologic disorders and cancers, which together are the predominant health problem of the 21st century. This proposed holistic strategy involves comprehensive patient-centered integrated care and multi-scale, multi-modal and multi-level systems approaches to tackle NCDs as a common group of diseases. Rather than studying each disease individually, it will take into account their intertwined gene-environment, socio-economic interactions and co-morbidities that lead to individual-specific complex phenotypes. It will implement a road map for predictive, preventive, personalized and participatory (P4) medicine based on a robust and extensive knowledge management infrastructure that contains individual patient information. It will be supported by strategic partnerships involving all stakeholders, including general practitioners associated with patient-centered care. This systems medicine strategy, which will take a holistic approach to disease, is designed to allow the results to be used globally, taking into account the needs and specificities of local economies and health systems.
doi:10.1186/gm259
PMCID: PMC3221551  PMID: 21745417
4.  Reactive Oxygen Species Production by Forward and Reverse Electron Fluxes in the Mitochondrial Respiratory Chain 
PLoS Computational Biology  2011;7(3):e1001115.
Reactive oxygen species (ROS) produced in the mitochondrial respiratory chain (RC) are primary signals that modulate cellular adaptation to environment, and are also destructive factors that damage cells under the conditions of hypoxia/reoxygenation relevant for various systemic diseases or transplantation. The important role of ROS in cell survival requires detailed investigation of mechanism and determinants of ROS production. To perform such an investigation we extended our rule-based model of complex III in order to account for electron transport in the whole RC coupled to proton translocation, transmembrane electrochemical potential generation, TCA cycle reactions, and substrate transport to mitochondria. It fits respiratory electron fluxes measured in rat brain mitochondria fueled by succinate or pyruvate and malate, and the dynamics of NAD+ reduction by reverse electron transport from succinate through complex I. The fitting of measured characteristics gave an insight into the mechanism of underlying processes governing the formation of free radicals that can transfer an unpaired electron to oxygen-producing superoxide and thus can initiate the generation of ROS. Our analysis revealed an association of ROS production with levels of specific radicals of individual electron transporters and their combinations in species of complexes I and III. It was found that the phenomenon of bistability, revealed previously as a property of complex III, remains valid for the whole RC. The conditions for switching to a state with a high content of free radicals in complex III were predicted based on theoretical analysis and were confirmed experimentally. These findings provide a new insight into the mechanisms of ROS production in RC.
Author Summary
Respiration at the level of mitochondria is considered as delivery of electrons and protons from NADH or succinate to oxygen through a set of transporters constituting the respiratory chain (RC). Mitochondrial respiration, dealing with transfer of unpaired electrons, may produce reactive oxygen species (ROS) such as O2− and subsequently H2O2 as side products. ROS are chemically very active and can cause oxidative damage to cellular components. The production of ROS, normally low, can increase under stress to the levels incompatible with cell survival; thus, understanding the ways of ROS production in the RC represents a vital task in research. We used mathematical modeling to analyze experiments with isolated brain mitochondria aimed to study relations between electron transport and ROS production. Elsewhere we reported that mitochondrial complex III can operate in two distinct steady states at the same microenvironmental conditions, producing either low or high levels of ROS. Here, this property of bistability was confirmed for the whole RC. The associations between measured ROS production and computed individual free radical levels in complexes I and III were established. The discovered phenomenon of bistability is important as a basis for new strategies in organ transplantation and therapy.
doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1001115
PMCID: PMC3068929  PMID: 21483483
5.  Knowledge management for systems biology a general and visually driven framework applied to translational medicine 
BMC Systems Biology  2011;5:38.
Background
To enhance our understanding of complex biological systems like diseases we need to put all of the available data into context and use this to detect relations, pattern and rules which allow predictive hypotheses to be defined. Life science has become a data rich science with information about the behaviour of millions of entities like genes, chemical compounds, diseases, cell types and organs, which are organised in many different databases and/or spread throughout the literature. Existing knowledge such as genotype - phenotype relations or signal transduction pathways must be semantically integrated and dynamically organised into structured networks that are connected with clinical and experimental data. Different approaches to this challenge exist but so far none has proven entirely satisfactory.
Results
To address this challenge we previously developed a generic knowledge management framework, BioXM™, which allows the dynamic, graphic generation of domain specific knowledge representation models based on specific objects and their relations supporting annotations and ontologies. Here we demonstrate the utility of BioXM for knowledge management in systems biology as part of the EU FP6 BioBridge project on translational approaches to chronic diseases. From clinical and experimental data, text-mining results and public databases we generate a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) knowledge base and demonstrate its use by mining specific molecular networks together with integrated clinical and experimental data.
Conclusions
We generate the first semantically integrated COPD specific public knowledge base and find that for the integration of clinical and experimental data with pre-existing knowledge the configuration based set-up enabled by BioXM reduced implementation time and effort for the knowledge base compared to similar systems implemented as classical software development projects. The knowledgebase enables the retrieval of sub-networks including protein-protein interaction, pathway, gene - disease and gene - compound data which are used for subsequent data analysis, modelling and simulation. Pre-structured queries and reports enhance usability; establishing their use in everyday clinical settings requires further simplification with a browser based interface which is currently under development.
doi:10.1186/1752-0509-5-38
PMCID: PMC3060864  PMID: 21375767
6.  The role of IREB2 and transforming growth factor beta-1 genetic variants in COPD: a replication case-control study 
BMC Medical Genetics  2011;12:24.
Background
Genetic factors are known to contribute to COPD susceptibility and these factors are not fully understood. Conflicting results have been reported for many genetic studies of candidate genes based on their role in the disease. Genome-wide association studies in combination with expression profiling have identified a number of new candidates including IREB2. A meta-analysis has implicated transforming growth factor beta-1 (TGFbeta1) as a contributor to disease susceptibility.
Methods
We have examined previously reported associations in both genes in a collection of 1017 white COPD patients and 912 non-diseased smoking controls. Genotype information was obtained for seven SNPs in the IREB2 gene, and for four SNPs in the TGFbeta1 gene. Allele and genotype frequencies were compared between COPD cases and controls, and odds ratios were calculated. The analysis was adjusted for age, sex, smoking and centre, including interactions of age, sex and smoking with centre.
Results
Our data replicate the association of IREB2 SNPs in association with COPD for SNP rs2568494, rs2656069 and rs12593229 with respective adjusted p-values of 0.0018, 0.0039 and 0.0053. No significant associations were identified for TGFbeta1.
Conclusions
These studies have therefore confirmed that the IREB2 locus is a contributor to COPD susceptibility and suggests a new pathway in COPD pathogenesis invoking iron homeostasis.
doi:10.1186/1471-2350-12-24
PMCID: PMC3047296  PMID: 21320324

Results 1-6 (6)