PLoS Computational Biology

Publishing science
  • Fast Simulation of Mechanical Heterogeneity in the Electrically Asynchronous Heart Using the MultiPatch Module
    [Jul 2015]

    by John Walmsley, Theo Arts, Nicolas Derval, Pierre Bordachar, Hubert Cochet, Sylvain Ploux, Frits W. Prinzen, Tammo Delhaas, Joost Lumens

    Cardiac electrical asynchrony occurs as a result of cardiac pacing or conduction disorders such as left bundle-branch block (LBBB). Electrically asynchronous activation causes myocardial contraction heterogeneity that can be detrimental for cardiac function. Computational models provide a tool for understanding pathological consequences of dyssynchronous contraction. Simulations of mechanical dyssynchrony within the heart are typically performed using the finite element method, whose computational intensity may present an obstacle to clinical deployment of patient-specific models. We present an alternative based on the CircAdapt lumped-parameter model of the heart and circulatory system, called the MultiPatch module. Cardiac walls are subdivided into an arbitrary number of patches of homogeneous tissue. Tissue properties and activation time can differ between patches. All patches within a wall share a common wall tension and curvature. Consequently, spatial location within the wall is not required to calculate deformation in a patch. We test the hypothesis that activation time is more important than tissue location for determining mechanical deformation in asynchronous hearts. We perform simulations representing an experimental study of myocardial deformation induced by ventricular pacing, and a patient with LBBB and heart failure using endocardial recordings of electrical activation, wall volumes, and end-diastolic volumes. Direct comparison between simulated and experimental strain patterns shows both qualitative and quantitative agreement between model fibre strain and experimental circumferential strain in terms of shortening and rebound stretch during ejection. Local myofibre strain in the patient simulation shows qualitative agreement with circumferential strain patterns observed in the patient using tagged MRI. We conclude that the MultiPatch module produces realistic regional deformation patterns in the asynchronous heart and that activation time is more important than tissue location within a wall for determining myocardial deformation. The CircAdapt model is therefore capable of fast and realistic simulations of dyssynchronous myocardial deformation embedded within the closed-loop cardiovascular system.
    Categories: Journal Articles
  • Neutral Models of Microbiome Evolution
    [Jul 2015]

    by Qinglong Zeng, Jeet Sukumaran, Steven Wu, Allen Rodrigo

    There has been an explosion of research on host-associated microbial communities (i.e.,microbiomes). Much of this research has focused on surveys of microbial diversities across a variety of host species, including humans, with a view to understanding how these microbiomes are distributed across space and time, and how they correlate with host health, disease, phenotype, physiology and ecology. Fewer studies have focused on how these microbiomes may have evolved. In this paper, we develop an agent-based framework to study the dynamics of microbiome evolution. Our framework incorporates neutral models of how hosts acquire their microbiomes, and how the environmental microbial community that is available to the hosts is assembled. Most importantly, our framework also incorporates a Wright-Fisher genealogical model of hosts, so that the dynamics of microbiome evolution is studied on an evolutionary timescale. Our results indicate that the extent of parental contribution to microbial availability from one generation to the next significantly impacts the diversity of microbiomes: the greater the parental contribution, the less diverse the microbiomes. In contrast, even when there is only a very small contribution from a constant environmental pool, microbial communities can remain highly diverse. Finally, we show that our models may be used to construct hypotheses about the types of processes that operate to assemble microbiomes over evolutionary time.
    Categories: Journal Articles
  • Timing and Variability of Galactose Metabolic Gene Activation Depend on the Rate of Environmental Change
    [Jul 2015]

    by Truong D. Nguyen-Huu, Chinmaya Gupta, Bo Ma, William Ott, Krešimir Josić, Matthew R. Bennett

    Modulation of gene network activity allows cells to respond to changes in environmental conditions. For example, the galactose utilization network in Saccharomyces cerevisiae is activated by the presence of galactose but repressed by glucose. If both sugars are present, the yeast will first metabolize glucose, depleting it from the extracellular environment. Upon depletion of glucose, the genes encoding galactose metabolic proteins will activate. Here, we show that the rate at which glucose levels are depleted determines the timing and variability of galactose gene activation. Paradoxically, we find that Gal1p, an enzyme needed for galactose metabolism, accumulates more quickly if glucose is depleted slowly rather than taken away quickly. Furthermore, the variability of induction times in individual cells depends non-monotonically on the rate of glucose depletion and exhibits a minimum at intermediate depletion rates. Our mathematical modeling suggests that the dynamics of the metabolic transition from glucose to galactose are responsible for the variability in galactose gene activation. These findings demonstrate that environmental dynamics can determine the phenotypic outcome at both the single-cell and population levels.
    Categories: Journal Articles
  • What Can Interaction Webs Tell Us About Species Roles?
    [Jul 2015]

    by Elizabeth L. Sander, J. Timothy Wootton, Stefano Allesina

    The group model is a useful tool to understand broad-scale patterns of interaction in a network, but it has previously been limited in use to food webs, which contain only predator-prey interactions. Natural populations interact with each other in a variety of ways and, although most published ecological networks only include information about a single interaction type (e.g., feeding, pollination), ecologists are beginning to consider networks which combine multiple interaction types. Here we extend the group model to signed directed networks such as ecological interaction webs. As a specific application of this method, we examine the effects of including or excluding specific interaction types on our understanding of species roles in ecological networks. We consider all three currently available interaction webs, two of which are extended plant-mutualist networks with herbivores and parasitoids added, and one of which is an extended intertidal food web with interactions of all possible sign structures (+/+, -/0, etc.). Species in the extended food web grouped similarly with all interactions, only trophic links, and only nontrophic links. However, removing mutualism or herbivory had a much larger effect in the extended plant-pollinator webs. Species removal even affected groups that were not directly connected to those that were removed, as we found by excluding a small number of parasitoids. These results suggest that including additional species in the network provides far more information than additional interactions for this aspect of network structure. Our methods provide a useful framework for simplifying networks to their essential structure, allowing us to identify generalities in network structure and better understand the roles species play in their communities.
    Categories: Journal Articles
  • Dynamical Localization of DivL and PleC in the Asymmetric Division Cycle of Caulobacter crescentus: A Theoretical Investigation of Alternative Models
    [Jul 2015]

    by Kartik Subramanian, Mark R. Paul, John J. Tyson

    Cell-fate asymmetry in the predivisional cell of Caulobacter crescentus requires that the regulatory protein DivL localizes to the new pole of the cell where it up-regulates CckA kinase, resulting in a gradient of CtrA~P across the cell. In the preceding stage of the cell cycle (the “stalked” cell), DivL is localized uniformly along the cell membrane and maintained in an inactive form by DivK~P. It is unclear how DivL overcomes inhibition by DivK~P in the predivisional cell simply by changing its location to the new pole. It has been suggested that co-localization of DivL with PleC phosphatase at the new pole is essential to DivL’s activity there. However, there are contrasting views on whether the bifunctional enzyme, PleC, acts as a kinase or phosphatase at the new pole. To explore these ambiguities, we formulated a mathematical model of the spatiotemporal distributions of DivL, PleC and associated proteins (DivJ, DivK, CckA, and CtrA) during the asymmetric division cycle of a Caulobacter cell. By varying localization profiles of DivL and PleC in our model, we show how the physiologically observed spatial distributions of these proteins are essential for the transition from a stalked cell to a predivisional cell. Our simulations suggest that PleC is a kinase in predivisional cells, and that, by sequestering DivK~P, the kinase form of PleC enables DivL to be reactivated at the new pole. Hence, co-localization of PleC kinase and DivL is essential to establishing cellular asymmetry. Our simulations reproduce the experimentally observed spatial distribution and phosphorylation status of CtrA in wild-type and mutant cells. Based on the model, we explore novel combinations of mutant alleles, making predictions that can be tested experimentally.
    Categories: Journal Articles
  • Quantitative Analysis of the Association Angle between T-cell Receptor Vα/Vβ Domains Reveals Important Features for Epitope Recognition
    [Jul 2015]

    by Thomas Hoffmann, Angela M. Krackhardt, Iris Antes

    T-cell receptors (TCR) play an important role in the adaptive immune system as they recognize pathogen- or cancer-based epitopes and thus initiate the cell-mediated immune response. Therefore there exists a growing interest in the optimization of TCRs for medical purposes like adoptive T-cell therapy. However, the molecular mechanisms behind T-cell signaling are still predominantly unknown. For small sets of TCRs it was observed that the angle between their Vα- and Vβ-domains, which bind the epitope, can vary and might be important for epitope recognition. Here we present a comprehensive, quantitative study of the variation in the Vα/Vβ interdomain-angle and its influence on epitope recognition, performing a systematic bioinformatics analysis based on a representative set of experimental TCR structures. For this purpose we developed a new, cuboid-based superpositioning method, which allows a unique, quantitative analysis of the Vα/Vβ-angles. Angle-based clustering led to six significantly different clusters. Analysis of these clusters revealed the unexpected result that the angle is predominantly influenced by the TCR-clonotype, whereas the bound epitope has only a minor influence. Furthermore we could identify a previously unknown center of rotation (CoR), which is shared by all TCRs. All TCR geometries can be obtained by rotation around this center, rendering it a new, common TCR feature with the potential of improving the accuracy of TCR structure prediction considerably. The importance of Vα/Vβ rotation for signaling was confirmed as we observed larger variances in the Vα/Vβ-angles in unbound TCRs compared to epitope-bound TCRs. Our results strongly support a two-step mechanism for TCR-epitope: First, preformation of a flexible TCR geometry in the unbound state and second, locking of the Vα/Vβ-angle in a TCR-type specific geometry upon epitope-MHC association, the latter being driven by rotation around the unique center of rotation.
    Categories: Journal Articles
  • Markov State Models Reveal a Two-Step Mechanism of miRNA Loading into the Human Argonaute Protein: Selective Binding followed by Structural Re-arrangement
    [Jul 2015]

    by Hanlun Jiang, Fu Kit Sheong, Lizhe Zhu, Xin Gao, Julie Bernauer, Xuhui Huang

    Argonaute (Ago) proteins and microRNAs (miRNAs) are central components in RNA interference, which is a key cellular mechanism for sequence-specific gene silencing. Despite intensive studies, molecular mechanisms of how Ago recognizes miRNA remain largely elusive. In this study, we propose a two-step mechanism for this molecular recognition: selective binding followed by structural re-arrangement. Our model is based on the results of a combination of Markov State Models (MSMs), large-scale protein-RNA docking, and molecular dynamics (MD) simulations. Using MSMs, we identify an open state of apo human Ago-2 in fast equilibrium with partially open and closed states. Conformations in this open state are distinguished by their largely exposed binding grooves that can geometrically accommodate miRNA as indicated in our protein-RNA docking studies. miRNA may then selectively bind to these open conformations. Upon the initial binding, the complex may perform further structural re-arrangement as shown in our MD simulations and eventually reach the stable binary complex structure. Our results provide novel insights in Ago-miRNA recognition mechanisms and our methodology holds great potential to be widely applied in the studies of other important molecular recognition systems.
    Categories: Journal Articles
  • Hydrophobic Gating of Ion Permeation in Magnesium Channel CorA
    [Jul 2015]

    by Chris Neale, Nilmadhab Chakrabarti, Pawel Pomorski, Emil F. Pai, Régis Pomès

    Ion channels catalyze ionic permeation across membranes via water-filled pores. To understand how changes in intracellular magnesium concentration regulate the influx of Mg2+ into cells, we examine early events in the relaxation of Mg2+ channel CorA toward its open state using massively-repeated molecular dynamics simulations conducted either with or without regulatory ions. The pore of CorA contains a 2-nm-long hydrophobic bottleneck which remained dehydrated in most simulations. However, rapid hydration or “wetting” events concurrent with small-amplitude fluctuations in pore diameter occurred spontaneously and reversibly. In the absence of regulatory ions, wetting transitions are more likely and include a wet state that is significantly more stable and more hydrated. The free energy profile for Mg2+ permeation presents a barrier whose magnitude is anticorrelated to pore diameter and the extent of hydrophobic hydration. These findings support an allosteric mechanism whereby wetting of a hydrophobic gate couples changes in intracellular magnesium concentration to the onset of ionic conduction.
    Categories: Journal Articles
  • Identification of Ohnolog Genes Originating from Whole Genome Duplication in Early Vertebrates, Based on Synteny Comparison across Multiple Genomes
    [Jul 2015]

    by Param Priya Singh, Jatin Arora, Hervé Isambert

    Whole genome duplications (WGD) have now been firmly established in all major eukaryotic kingdoms. In particular, all vertebrates descend from two rounds of WGDs, that occurred in their jawless ancestor some 500 MY ago. Paralogs retained from WGD, also coined ‘ohnologs’ after Susumu Ohno, have been shown to be typically associated with development, signaling and gene regulation. Ohnologs, which amount to about 20 to 35% of genes in the human genome, have also been shown to be prone to dominant deleterious mutations and frequently implicated in cancer and genetic diseases. Hence, identifying ohnologs is central to better understand the evolution of vertebrates and their susceptibility to genetic diseases. Early computational analyses to identify vertebrate ohnologs relied on content-based synteny comparisons between the human genome and a single invertebrate outgroup genome or within the human genome itself. These approaches are thus limited by lineage specific rearrangements in individual genomes. We report, in this study, the identification of vertebrate ohnologs based on the quantitative assessment and integration of synteny conservation between six amniote vertebrates and six invertebrate outgroups. Such a synteny comparison across multiple genomes is shown to enhance the statistical power of ohnolog identification in vertebrates compared to earlier approaches, by overcoming lineage specific genome rearrangements. Ohnolog gene families can be browsed and downloaded for three statistical confidence levels or recompiled for specific, user-defined, significance criteria at http://ohnologs.curie.fr/. In the light of the importance of WGD on the genetic makeup of vertebrates, our analysis provides a useful resource for researchers interested in gaining further insights on vertebrate evolution and genetic diseases.
    Categories: Journal Articles
  • Adaptive Synaptogenesis Constructs Neural Codes That Benefit Discrimination
    [Jul 2015]

    by Blake T. Thomas, Davis W. Blalock, William B. Levy

    Intelligent organisms face a variety of tasks requiring the acquisition of expertise within a specific domain, including the ability to discriminate between a large number of similar patterns. From an energy-efficiency perspective, effective discrimination requires a prudent allocation of neural resources with more frequent patterns and their variants being represented with greater precision. In this work, we demonstrate a biologically plausible means of constructing a single-layer neural network that adaptively (i.e., without supervision) meets this criterion. Specifically, the adaptive algorithm includes synaptogenesis, synaptic shedding, and bi-directional synaptic weight modification to produce a network with outputs (i.e. neural codes) that represent input patterns proportional to the frequency of related patterns. In addition to pattern frequency, the correlational structure of the input environment also affects allocation of neural resources. The combined synaptic modification mechanisms provide an explanation of neuron allocation in the case of self-taught experts.
    Categories: Journal Articles
  • Emergence of Slow-Switching Assemblies in Structured Neuronal Networks
    [Jul 2015]

    by Michael T. Schaub, Yazan N. Billeh, Costas A. Anastassiou, Christof Koch, Mauricio Barahona

    Unraveling the interplay between connectivity and spatio-temporal dynamics in neuronal networks is a key step to advance our understanding of neuronal information processing. Here we investigate how particular features of network connectivity underpin the propensity of neural networks to generate slow-switching assembly (SSA) dynamics, i.e., sustained epochs of increased firing within assemblies of neurons which transition slowly between different assemblies throughout the network. We show that the emergence of SSA activity is linked to spectral properties of the asymmetric synaptic weight matrix. In particular, the leading eigenvalues that dictate the slow dynamics exhibit a gap with respect to the bulk of the spectrum, and the associated Schur vectors exhibit a measure of block-localization on groups of neurons, thus resulting in coherent dynamical activity on those groups. Through simple rate models, we gain analytical understanding of the origin and importance of the spectral gap, and use these insights to develop new network topologies with alternative connectivity paradigms which also display SSA activity. Specifically, SSA dynamics involving excitatory and inhibitory neurons can be achieved by modifying the connectivity patterns between both types of neurons. We also show that SSA activity can occur at multiple timescales reflecting a hierarchy in the connectivity, and demonstrate the emergence of SSA in small-world like networks. Our work provides a step towards understanding how network structure (uncovered through advancements in neuroanatomy and connectomics) can impact on spatio-temporal neural activity and constrain the resulting dynamics.
    Categories: Journal Articles
  • Modeling Inhibitory Interneurons in Efficient Sensory Coding Models
    [Jul 2015]

    by Mengchen Zhu, Christopher J. Rozell

    There is still much unknown regarding the computational role of inhibitory cells in the sensory cortex. While modeling studies could potentially shed light on the critical role played by inhibition in cortical computation, there is a gap between the simplicity of many models of sensory coding and the biological complexity of the inhibitory subpopulation. In particular, many models do not respect that inhibition must be implemented in a separate subpopulation, with those inhibitory interneurons having a diversity of tuning properties and characteristic E/I cell ratios. In this study we demonstrate a computational framework for implementing inhibition in dynamical systems models that better respects these biophysical observations about inhibitory interneurons. The main approach leverages recent work related to decomposing matrices into low-rank and sparse components via convex optimization, and explicitly exploits the fact that models and input statistics often have low-dimensional structure that can be exploited for efficient implementations. While this approach is applicable to a wide range of sensory coding models (including a family of models based on Bayesian inference in a linear generative model), for concreteness we demonstrate the approach on a network implementing sparse coding. We show that the resulting implementation stays faithful to the original coding goals while using inhibitory interneurons that are much more biophysically plausible.
    Categories: Journal Articles
  • A Developmental Switch for Hebbian Plasticity
    [Jul 2015]

    by Marijn B. Martens, Tansu Celikel, Paul H. E. Tiesinga

    Hebbian forms of synaptic plasticity are required for the orderly development of sensory circuits in the brain and are powerful modulators of learning and memory in adulthood. During development, emergence of Hebbian plasticity leads to formation of functional circuits. By modeling the dynamics of neurotransmitter release during early postnatal cortical development we show that a developmentally regulated switch in vesicle exocytosis mode triggers associative (i.e. Hebbian) plasticity. Early in development spontaneous vesicle exocytosis (SVE), often considered as 'synaptic noise', is important for homogenization of synaptic weights and maintenance of synaptic weights in the appropriate dynamic range. Our results demonstrate that SVE has a permissive, whereas subsequent evoked vesicle exocytosis (EVE) has an instructive role in the expression of Hebbian plasticity. A timed onset for Hebbian plasticity can be achieved by switching from SVE to EVE and the balance between SVE and EVE can control the effective rate of Hebbian plasticity. We further show that this developmental switch in neurotransmitter release mode enables maturation of spike-timing dependent plasticity. A mis-timed or inadequate SVE to EVE switch may lead to malformation of brain networks thereby contributing to the etiology of neurodevelopmental disorders.
    Categories: Journal Articles
  • Geometry of the Gene Expression Space of Individual Cells
    [Jul 2015]

    by Yael Korem, Pablo Szekely, Yuval Hart, Hila Sheftel, Jean Hausser, Avi Mayo, Michael E. Rothenberg, Tomer Kalisky, Uri Alon

    There is a revolution in the ability to analyze gene expression of single cells in a tissue. To understand this data we must comprehend how cells are distributed in a high-dimensional gene expression space. One open question is whether cell types form discrete clusters or whether gene expression forms a continuum of states. If such a continuum exists, what is its geometry? Recent theory on evolutionary trade-offs suggests that cells that need to perform multiple tasks are arranged in a polygon or polyhedron (line, triangle, tetrahedron and so on, generally called polytopes) in gene expression space, whose vertices are the expression profiles optimal for each task. Here, we analyze single-cell data from human and mouse tissues profiled using a variety of single-cell technologies. We fit the data to shapes with different numbers of vertices, compute their statistical significance, and infer their tasks. We find cases in which single cells fill out a continuum of expression states within a polyhedron. This occurs in intestinal progenitor cells, which fill out a tetrahedron in gene expression space. The four vertices of this tetrahedron are each enriched with genes for a specific task related to stemness and early differentiation. A polyhedral continuum of states is also found in spleen dendritic cells, known to perform multiple immune tasks: cells fill out a tetrahedron whose vertices correspond to key tasks related to maturation, pathogen sensing and communication with lymphocytes. A mixture of continuum-like distributions and discrete clusters is found in other cell types, including bone marrow and differentiated intestinal crypt cells. This approach can be used to understand the geometry and biological tasks of a wide range of single-cell datasets. The present results suggest that the concept of cell type may be expanded. In addition to discreet clusters in gene-expression space, we suggest a new possibility: a continuum of states within a polyhedron, in which the vertices represent specialists at key tasks.
    Categories: Journal Articles
  • Evaluating Spatial Interaction Models for Regional Mobility in Sub-Saharan Africa
    [Jul 2015]

    by Amy Wesolowski, Wendy Prudhomme O’Meara, Nathan Eagle, Andrew J. Tatem, Caroline O. Buckee

    Simple spatial interaction models of human mobility based on physical laws have been used extensively in the social, biological, and physical sciences, and in the study of the human dynamics underlying the spread of disease. Recent analyses of commuting patterns and travel behavior in high-income countries have led to the suggestion that these models are highly generalizable, and as a result, gravity and radiation models have become standard tools for describing population mobility dynamics for infectious disease epidemiology. Communities in Sub-Saharan Africa may not conform to these models, however; physical accessibility, availability of transport, and cost of travel between locations may be variable and severely constrained compared to high-income settings, informal labor movements rather than regular commuting patterns are often the norm, and the rise of mega-cities across the continent has important implications for travel between rural and urban areas. Here, we first review how infectious disease frameworks incorporate human mobility on different spatial scales and use anonymous mobile phone data from nearly 15 million individuals to analyze the spatiotemporal dynamics of the Kenyan population. We find that gravity and radiation models fail in systematic ways to capture human mobility measured by mobile phones; both severely overestimate the spatial spread of travel and perform poorly in rural areas, but each exhibits different characteristic patterns of failure with respect to routes and volumes of travel. Thus, infectious disease frameworks that rely on spatial interaction models are likely to misrepresent population dynamics important for the spread of disease in many African populations.
    Categories: Journal Articles
  • How Co-translational Folding of Multi-domain Protein Is Affected by Elongation Schedule: Molecular Simulations
    [Jul 2015]

    by Tomohiro Tanaka, Naoto Hori, Shoji Takada

    Co-translational folding (CTF) facilitates correct folding in vivo, but its precise mechanism remains elusive. For the CTF of a three-domain protein SufI, it was reported that the translational attenuation is obligatory to acquire the functional state. Here, to gain structural insights on the underlying mechanisms, we performed comparative molecular simulations of SufI that mimic CTF as well as refolding schemes. A CTF scheme that relied on a codon-based prediction of translational rates exhibited folding probability markedly higher than that by the refolding scheme. When the CTF schedule is speeded up, the success rate dropped. These agree with experiments. Structural investigation clarified that misfolding of the middle domain was much more frequent in the refolding scheme than that in the codon-based CTF scheme. The middle domain is less stable and can fold via interactions with the folded N-terminal domain. Folding pathway networks showed the codon-based CTF gives narrower pathways to the native state than the refolding scheme.
    Categories: Journal Articles
  • A Computational Model of a Descending Mechanosensory Pathway Involved in Active Tactile Sensing
    [Jul 2015]

    by Jan M. Ache, Volker Dürr

    Many animals, including humans, rely on active tactile sensing to explore the environment and negotiate obstacles, especially in the dark. Here, we model a descending neural pathway that mediates short-latency proprioceptive information from a tactile sensor on the head to thoracic neural networks. We studied the nocturnal stick insect Carausius morosus, a model organism for the study of adaptive locomotion, including tactually mediated reaching movements. Like mammals, insects need to move their tactile sensors for probing the environment. Cues about sensor position and motion are therefore crucial for the spatial localization of tactile contacts and the coordination of fast, adaptive motor responses. Our model explains how proprioceptive information about motion and position of the antennae, the main tactile sensors in insects, can be encoded by a single type of mechanosensory afferents. Moreover, it explains how this information is integrated and mediated to thoracic neural networks by a diverse population of descending interneurons (DINs). First, we quantified responses of a DIN population to changes in antennal position, motion and direction of movement. Using principal component (PC) analysis, we find that only two PCs account for a large fraction of the variance in the DIN response properties. We call the two-dimensional space spanned by these PCs ‘coding-space’ because it captures essential features of the entire DIN population. Second, we model the mechanoreceptive input elements of this descending pathway, a population of proprioceptive mechanosensory hairs monitoring deflection of the antennal joints. Finally, we propose a computational framework that can model the response properties of all important DIN types, using the hair field model as its only input. This DIN model is validated by comparison of tuning characteristics, and by mapping the modelled neurons into the two-dimensional coding-space of the real DIN population. This reveals the versatility of the framework for modelling a complete descending neural pathway.
    Categories: Journal Articles
  • Heterogeneous Network Edge Prediction: A Data Integration Approach to Prioritize Disease-Associated Genes
    [Jul 2015]

    by Daniel S. Himmelstein, Sergio E. Baranzini

    The first decade of Genome Wide Association Studies (GWAS) has uncovered a wealth of disease-associated variants. Two important derivations will be the translation of this information into a multiscale understanding of pathogenic variants and leveraging existing data to increase the power of existing and future studies through prioritization. We explore edge prediction on heterogeneous networks—graphs with multiple node and edge types—for accomplishing both tasks. First we constructed a network with 18 node types—genes, diseases, tissues, pathophysiologies, and 14 MSigDB (molecular signatures database) collections—and 19 edge types from high-throughput publicly-available resources. From this network composed of 40,343 nodes and 1,608,168 edges, we extracted features that describe the topology between specific genes and diseases. Next, we trained a model from GWAS associations and predicted the probability of association between each protein-coding gene and each of 29 well-studied complex diseases. The model, which achieved 132-fold enrichment in precision at 10% recall, outperformed any individual domain, highlighting the benefit of integrative approaches. We identified pleiotropy, transcriptional signatures of perturbations, pathways, and protein interactions as influential mechanisms explaining pathogenesis. Our method successfully predicted the results (with AUROC = 0.79) from a withheld multiple sclerosis (MS) GWAS despite starting with only 13 previously associated genes. Finally, we combined our network predictions with statistical evidence of association to propose four novel MS genes, three of which (JAK2, REL, RUNX3) validated on the masked GWAS. Furthermore, our predictions provide biological support highlighting REL as the causal gene within its gene-rich locus. Users can browse all predictions online (http://het.io). Heterogeneous network edge prediction effectively prioritized genetic associations and provides a powerful new approach for data integration across multiple domains.
    Categories: Journal Articles
  • A Diffusive Homeostatic Signal Maintains Neural Heterogeneity and Responsiveness in Cortical Networks
    [Jul 2015]

    by Yann Sweeney, Jeanette Hellgren Kotaleski, Matthias H. Hennig

    Gaseous neurotransmitters such as nitric oxide (NO) provide a unique and often overlooked mechanism for neurons to communicate through diffusion within a network, independent of synaptic connectivity. NO provides homeostatic control of intrinsic excitability. Here we conduct a theoretical investigation of the distinguishing roles of NO-mediated diffusive homeostasis in comparison with canonical non-diffusive homeostasis in cortical networks. We find that both forms of homeostasis provide a robust mechanism for maintaining stable activity following perturbations. However, the resulting networks differ, with diffusive homeostasis maintaining substantial heterogeneity in activity levels of individual neurons, a feature disrupted in networks with non-diffusive homeostasis. This results in networks capable of representing input heterogeneity, and linearly responding over a broader range of inputs than those undergoing non-diffusive homeostasis. We further show that these properties are preserved when homeostatic and Hebbian plasticity are combined. These results suggest a mechanism for dynamically maintaining neural heterogeneity, and expose computational advantages of non-local homeostatic processes.
    Categories: Journal Articles
  • Genome Modeling System: A Knowledge Management Platform for Genomics
    [Jul 2015]

    by Malachi Griffith, Obi L. Griffith, Scott M. Smith, Avinash Ramu, Matthew B. Callaway, Anthony M. Brummett, Michael J. Kiwala, Adam C. Coffman, Allison A. Regier, Ben J. Oberkfell, Gabriel E. Sanderson, Thomas P. Mooney, Nathaniel G. Nutter, Edward A. Belter, Feiyu Du, Robert L. Long, Travis E. Abbott, Ian T. Ferguson, David L. Morton, Mark M. Burnett, James V. Weible, Joshua B. Peck, Adam Dukes, Joshua F. McMichael, Justin T. Lolofie, Brian R. Derickson, Jasreet Hundal, Zachary L. Skidmore, Benjamin J. Ainscough, Nathan D. Dees, William S. Schierding, Cyriac Kandoth, Kyung H. Kim, Charles Lu, Christopher C. Harris, Nicole Maher, Christopher A. Maher, Vincent J. Magrini, Benjamin S. Abbott, Ken Chen, Eric Clark, Indraniel Das, Xian Fan, Amy E. Hawkins, Todd G. Hepler, Todd N. Wylie, Shawn M. Leonard, William E. Schroeder, Xiaoqi Shi, Lynn K. Carmichael, Matthew R. Weil, Richard W. Wohlstadter, Gary Stiehr, Michael D. McLellan, Craig S. Pohl, Christopher A. Miller, Daniel C. Koboldt, Jason R. Walker, James M. Eldred, David E. Larson, David J. Dooling, Li Ding, Elaine R. Mardis, Richard K. Wilson

    In this work, we present the Genome Modeling System (GMS), an analysis information management system capable of executing automated genome analysis pipelines at a massive scale. The GMS framework provides detailed tracking of samples and data coupled with reliable and repeatable analysis pipelines. The GMS also serves as a platform for bioinformatics development, allowing a large team to collaborate on data analysis, or an individual researcher to leverage the work of others effectively within its data management system. Rather than separating ad-hoc analysis from rigorous, reproducible pipelines, the GMS promotes systematic integration between the two. As a demonstration of the GMS, we performed an integrated analysis of whole genome, exome and transcriptome sequencing data from a breast cancer cell line (HCC1395) and matched lymphoblastoid line (HCC1395BL). These data are available for users to test the software, complete tutorials and develop novel GMS pipeline configurations. The GMS is available at https://github.com/genome/gms.
    Categories: Journal Articles