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1.  Trade-off between Responsiveness and Noise Suppression in Biomolecular System Responses to Environmental Cues 
PLoS Computational Biology  2011;7(6):e1002091.
When living systems detect changes in their external environment their response must be measured to balance the need to react appropriately with the need to remain stable, ignoring insignificant signals. Because this is a fundamental challenge of all biological systems that execute programs in response to stimuli, we developed a generalized time-frequency analysis (TFA) framework to systematically explore the dynamical properties of biomolecular networks. Using TFA, we focused on two well-characterized yeast gene regulatory networks responsive to carbon-source shifts and a mammalian innate immune regulatory network responsive to lipopolysaccharides (LPS). The networks are comprised of two different basic architectures. Dual positive and negative feedback loops make up the yeast galactose network; whereas overlapping positive and negative feed-forward loops are common to the yeast fatty-acid response network and the LPS-induced network of macrophages. TFA revealed remarkably distinct network behaviors in terms of trade-offs in responsiveness and noise suppression that are appropriately tuned to each biological response. The wild type galactose network was found to be highly responsive while the oleate network has greater noise suppression ability. The LPS network appeared more balanced, exhibiting less bias toward noise suppression or responsiveness. Exploration of the network parameter space exposed dramatic differences in system behaviors for each network. These studies highlight fundamental structural and dynamical principles that underlie each network, reveal constrained parameters of positive and negative feedback and feed-forward strengths that tune the networks appropriately for their respective biological roles, and demonstrate the general utility of the TFA approach for systems and synthetic biology.
Author Summary
Biological systems constantly balance noise suppression with responsiveness. In a fluctuating environment, some changes are insignificant to living cells while others represent cues to which they must respond. These stimuli are interpreted by molecular circuits that enable the cell to strike an appropriate balance between responsiveness and noise suppression. This trade-off is governed by the structure and kinetic parameters of molecular networks, which have been tuned by evolutionary selection for different stimuli and responses. We consider three regulatory circuits (two from yeast and one from mammalian cells), which respond to different environments and involve very different physiological processes. To investigate the responses to a time varying signal, we developed a generalized time-frequency analysis framework for studying such trade-offs using mathematical models of regulatory circuits and explore how the structure and parameters of the circuit affect the trade-offs between noise suppression and responsiveness. The generalized TFA approach represents an effective tool for exploring and analyzing different systems-level dynamical properties. Making use of such properties can facilitate prediction and network control for systems- and synthetic biology applications.
PMCID: PMC3127798  PMID: 21738459
4.  Uncovering a Macrophage Transcriptional Program by Integrating Evidence from Motif Scanning and Expression Dynamics 
PLoS Computational Biology  2008;4(3):e1000021.
Macrophages are versatile immune cells that can detect a variety of pathogen-associated molecular patterns through their Toll-like receptors (TLRs). In response to microbial challenge, the TLR-stimulated macrophage undergoes an activation program controlled by a dynamically inducible transcriptional regulatory network. Mapping a complex mammalian transcriptional network poses significant challenges and requires the integration of multiple experimental data types. In this work, we inferred a transcriptional network underlying TLR-stimulated murine macrophage activation. Microarray-based expression profiling and transcription factor binding site motif scanning were used to infer a network of associations between transcription factor genes and clusters of co-expressed target genes. The time-lagged correlation was used to analyze temporal expression data in order to identify potential causal influences in the network. A novel statistical test was developed to assess the significance of the time-lagged correlation. Several associations in the resulting inferred network were validated using targeted ChIP-on-chip experiments. The network incorporates known regulators and gives insight into the transcriptional control of macrophage activation. Our analysis identified a novel regulator (TGIF1) that may have a role in macrophage activation.
Author Summary
Macrophages play a vital role in host defense against infection by recognizing pathogens through pattern recognition receptors, such as the Toll-like receptors (TLRs), and mounting an immune response. Stimulation of TLRs initiates a complex transcriptional program in which induced transcription factor genes dynamically regulate downstream genes. Microarray-based transcriptional profiling has proved useful for mapping such transcriptional programs in simpler model organisms; however, mammalian systems present difficulties such as post-translational regulation of transcription factors, combinatorial gene regulation, and a paucity of available gene-knockout expression data. Additional evidence sources, such as DNA sequence-based identification of transcription factor binding sites, are needed. In this work, we computationally inferred a transcriptional network for TLR-stimulated murine macrophages. Our approach combined sequence scanning with time-course expression data in a probabilistic framework. Expression data were analyzed using the time-lagged correlation. A novel, unbiased method was developed to assess the significance of the time-lagged correlation. The inferred network of associations between transcription factor genes and co-expressed gene clusters was validated with targeted ChIP-on-chip experiments, and yielded insights into the macrophage activation program, including a potential novel regulator. Our general approach could be used to analyze other complex mammalian systems for which time-course expression data are available.
PMCID: PMC2265556  PMID: 18369420

Results 1-4 (4)