PLoS Computational Biology
Towards a Molecular Understanding of the Link between Imatinib Resistance and Kinase Conformational Dynamics
by Silvia Lovera, Maria Morando, Encarna Pucheta-Martinez, Jorge L. Martinez-Torrecuadrada, Giorgio Saladino, Francesco L. GervasioDue to its inhibition of the Abl kinase domain in the BCR-ABL fusion protein, imatinib is strikingly effective in the initial stage of chronic myeloid leukemia with more than 90% of the patients showing complete remission. However, as in the case of most targeted anti-cancer therapies, the emergence of drug resistance is a serious concern. Several drug-resistant mutations affecting the catalytic domain of Abl and other tyrosine kinases are now known. But, despite their importance and the adverse effect that they have on the prognosis of the cancer patients harboring them, the molecular mechanism of these mutations is still debated. Here by using long molecular dynamics simulations and large-scale free energy calculations complemented by in vitro mutagenesis and microcalorimetry experiments, we model the effect of several widespread drug-resistant mutations of Abl. By comparing the conformational free energy landscape of the mutants with those of the wild-type tyrosine kinases we clarify their mode of action. It involves significant and complex changes in the inactive-to-active dynamics and entropy/enthalpy balance of two functional elements: the activation-loop and the conserved DFG motif. What is more the T315I gatekeeper mutant has a significant impact on the binding mechanism itself and on the binding kinetics.
by Hisashi Ohtsuki, Yoh Iwasa, Martin A. NowakWe study the evolution of cooperation in a model of indirect reciprocity where people interact in public and private situations. Public interactions have a high chance to be observed by others and always affect reputation. Private interactions have a lower chance to be observed and only occasionally affect reputation. We explore all second order social norms and study conditions for evolutionary stability of action rules. We observe the competition between “honest” and “hypocritical” strategies. The former cooperate both in public and in private. The later cooperate in public, where many others are watching, but try to get away with defection in private situations. The hypocritical idea is that in private situations it does not pay-off to cooperate, because there is a good chance that nobody will notice it. We find simple and intuitive conditions for the evolution of honest strategies.
by Mikhail Shugay, Dmitriy V. Bagaev, Maria A. Turchaninova, Dmitriy A. Bolotin, Olga V. Britanova, Ekaterina V. Putintseva, Mikhail V. Pogorelyy, Vadim I. Nazarov, Ivan V. Zvyagin, Vitalina I. Kirgizova, Kirill I. Kirgizov, Elena V. Skorobogatova, Dmitriy M. ChudakovDespite the growing number of immune repertoire sequencing studies, the field still lacks software for analysis and comprehension of this high-dimensional data. Here we report VDJtools, a complementary software suite that solves a wide range of T cell receptor (TCR) repertoires post-analysis tasks, provides a detailed tabular output and publication-ready graphics, and is built on top of a flexible API. Using TCR datasets for a large cohort of unrelated healthy donors, twins, and multiple sclerosis patients we demonstrate that VDJtools greatly facilitates the analysis and leads to sound biological conclusions. VDJtools software and documentation are available at https://github.com/mikessh/vdjtools.
A Jump-from-Cavity Pyrophosphate Ion Release Assisted by a Key Lysine Residue in T7 RNA Polymerase Transcription Elongation
by Lin-Tai Da, Chao E, Baogen Duan, Chuanbiao Zhang, Xin Zhou, Jin YuPyrophosphate ion (PPi) release during transcription elongation is a signature step in each nucleotide addition cycle. The kinetics and energetics of the process as well as how it proceeds with substantial conformational changes of the polymerase complex determine the mechano-chemical coupling mechanism of the transcription elongation. Here we investigated detailed dynamics of the PPi release process in a single-subunit RNA polymerase (RNAP) from bacteriophage T7, implementing all-atom molecular dynamics (MD) simulations. We obtained a jump-from-cavity kinetic model of the PPi release utilizing extensive nanosecond MD simulations. We found that the PPi release in T7 RNAP is initiated by the PPi dissociation from two catalytic aspartic acids, followed by a comparatively slow jump-from-cavity activation process. Combining with a number of microsecond long MD simulations, we also found that the activation process is hindered by charged residue associations as well as by local steric and hydrogen bond interactions. On the other hand, the activation is greatly assisted by a highly flexible lysine residue Lys472 that swings its side chain to pull PPi out. The mechanism can apply in general to single subunit RNA and DNA polymerases with similar molecular structures and conserved key residues. Remarkably, the flexible lysine or arginine residue appears to be a universal module that assists the PPi release even in multi-subunit RNAPs with charge facilitated hopping mechanisms. We also noticed that the PPi release is not tightly coupled to opening motions of an O-helix on the fingers domain of T7 RNAP according to the microsecond MD simulations. Our study thus supports the Brownian ratchet scenario of the mechano-chemical coupling in the transcription elongation of the single-subunit polymerase.
by Alex Davies, Matthieu Louis, Barbara WebbDetailed observations of larval Drosophila chemotaxis have characterised the relationship between the odour gradient and the runs, head casts and turns made by the animal. We use a computational model to test whether hypothesised sensorimotor control mechanisms are sufficient to account for larval behaviour. The model combines three mechanisms based on simple transformations of the recent history of odour intensity at the head location. The first is an increased probability of terminating runs in response to gradually decreasing concentration, the second an increased probability of terminating head casts in response to rapidly increasing concentration, and the third a biasing of run directions up concentration gradients through modulation of small head casts. We show that this model can be tuned to produce behavioural statistics comparable to those reported for the larva, and that this tuning results in similar chemotaxis performance to the larva. We demonstrate that each mechanism can enable odour approach but the combination of mechanisms is most effective, and investigate how these low-level control mechanisms relate to behavioural measures such as the preference indices used to investigate larval learning behaviour in group assays.
Remodeling and Tenacity of Inhibitory Synapses: Relationships with Network Activity and Neighboring Excitatory Synapses
by Anna Rubinski, Noam E. ZivGlutamatergic synapse size remodeling is governed not only by specific activity forms but also by apparently stochastic processes with well-defined statistics. These spontaneous remodeling processes can give rise to skewed and stable synaptic size distributions, underlie scaling of these distributions and drive changes in glutamatergic synapse size “configurations”. Where inhibitory synapses are concerned, however, little is known on spontaneous remodeling dynamics, their statistics, their activity dependence or their long-term consequences. Here we followed individual inhibitory synapses for days, and analyzed their size remodeling dynamics within the statistical framework previously developed for glutamatergic synapses. Similar to glutamatergic synapses, size distributions of inhibitory synapses were skewed and stable; at the same time, however, sizes of individual synapses changed considerably, leading to gradual changes in synaptic size configurations. The suppression of network activity only transiently affected spontaneous remodeling dynamics, did not affect synaptic size configuration change rates and was not followed by the scaling of inhibitory synapse size distributions. Comparisons with glutamatergic synapses within the same dendrites revealed a degree of coupling between nearby inhibitory and excitatory synapse remodeling, but also revealed that inhibitory synapse size configurations changed at considerably slower rates than those of their glutamatergic neighbors. These findings point to quantitative differences in spontaneous remodeling dynamics of inhibitory and excitatory synapses but also reveal deep qualitative similarities in the processes that control their sizes and govern their remodeling dynamics.
by Maciej Jan Ejsmond, Jacek RadwanMajor Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) genes code for proteins involved in the incitation of the adaptive immune response in vertebrates, which is achieved through binding oligopeptides (antigens) of pathogenic origin. Across vertebrate species, substitutions of amino acids at sites responsible for the specificity of antigen binding (ABS) are positively selected. This is attributed to pathogen-driven balancing selection, which is also thought to maintain the high polymorphism of MHC genes, and to cause the sharing of allelic lineages between species. However, the nature of this selection remains controversial. We used individual-based computer simulations to investigate the roles of two phenomena capable of maintaining MHC polymorphism: heterozygote advantage and host-pathogen arms race (Red Queen process). Our simulations revealed that levels of MHC polymorphism were high and driven mostly by the Red Queen process at a high pathogen mutation rate, but were low and driven mostly by heterozygote advantage when the pathogen mutation rate was low. We found that novel mutations at ABSs are strongly favored by the Red Queen process, but not by heterozygote advantage, regardless of the pathogen mutation rate. However, while the strong advantage of novel alleles increased the allele turnover rate, under a high pathogen mutation rate, allelic lineages persisted for a comparable length of time under Red Queen and under heterozygote advantage. Thus, when pathogens evolve quickly, the Red Queen is capable of explaining both positive selection and long coalescence times, but the tension between the novel allele advantage and persistence of alleles deserves further investigation.
by Minzhe Guo, Hui Wang, S. Steven Potter, Jeffrey A. Whitsett, Yan XuA major challenge in developmental biology is to understand the genetic and cellular processes/programs driving organ formation and differentiation of the diverse cell types that comprise the embryo. While recent studies using single cell transcriptome analysis illustrate the power to measure and understand cellular heterogeneity in complex biological systems, processing large amounts of RNA-seq data from heterogeneous cell populations creates the need for readily accessible tools for the analysis of single-cell RNA-seq (scRNA-seq) profiles. The present study presents a generally applicable analytic pipeline (SINCERA: a computational pipeline for SINgle CEll RNA-seq profiling Analysis) for processing scRNA-seq data from a whole organ or sorted cells. The pipeline supports the analysis for: 1) the distinction and identification of major cell types; 2) the identification of cell type specific gene signatures; and 3) the determination of driving forces of given cell types. We applied this pipeline to the RNA-seq analysis of single cells isolated from embryonic mouse lung at E16.5. Through the pipeline analysis, we distinguished major cell types of fetal mouse lung, including epithelial, endothelial, smooth muscle, pericyte, and fibroblast-like cell types, and identified cell type specific gene signatures, bioprocesses, and key regulators. SINCERA is implemented in R, licensed under the GNU General Public License v3, and freely available from CCHMC PBGE website, https://research.cchmc.org/pbge/sincera.html.
by Max S. Y. Lau, Glenn Marion, George Streftaris, Gavin GibsonGenetic sequence data on pathogens have great potential to inform inference of their transmission dynamics ultimately leading to better disease control. Where genetic change and disease transmission occur on comparable timescales additional information can be inferred via the joint analysis of such genetic sequence data and epidemiological observations based on clinical symptoms and diagnostic tests. Although recently introduced approaches represent substantial progress, for computational reasons they approximate genuine joint inference of disease dynamics and genetic change in the pathogen population, capturing partially the joint epidemiological-evolutionary dynamics. Improved methods are needed to fully integrate such genetic data with epidemiological observations, for achieving a more robust inference of the transmission tree and other key epidemiological parameters such as latent periods. Here, building on current literature, a novel Bayesian framework is proposed that infers simultaneously and explicitly the transmission tree and unobserved transmitted pathogen sequences. Our framework facilitates the use of realistic likelihood functions and enables systematic and genuine joint inference of the epidemiological-evolutionary process from partially observed outbreaks. Using simulated data it is shown that this approach is able to infer accurately joint epidemiological-evolutionary dynamics, even when pathogen sequences and epidemiological data are incomplete, and when sequences are available for only a fraction of exposures. These results also characterise and quantify the value of incomplete and partial sequence data, which has important implications for sampling design, and demonstrate the abilities of the introduced method to identify multiple clusters within an outbreak. The framework is used to analyse an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in the UK, enhancing current understanding of its transmission dynamics and evolutionary process.
by Etienne Baratchart, Sébastien Benzekry, Andreas Bikfalvi, Thierry Colin, Lindsay S. Cooley, Raphäel Pineau, Emeline J Ribot, Olivier Saut, Wilfried SouleyreauThe biology of the metastatic colonization process remains a poorly understood phenomenon. To improve our knowledge of its dynamics, we conducted a modelling study based on multi-modal data from an orthotopic murine experimental system of metastatic renal cell carcinoma. The standard theory of metastatic colonization usually assumes that secondary tumours, once established at a distant site, grow independently from each other and from the primary tumour. Using a mathematical model that translates this assumption into equations, we challenged this theory against our data that included: 1) dynamics of primary tumour cells in the kidney and metastatic cells in the lungs, retrieved by green fluorescent protein tracking, and 2) magnetic resonance images (MRI) informing on the number and size of macroscopic lesions. Critically, when calibrated on the growth of the primary tumour and total metastatic burden, the predicted theoretical size distributions were not in agreement with the MRI observations. Moreover, tumour expansion only based on proliferation was not able to explain the volume increase of the metastatic lesions. These findings strongly suggested rejection of the standard theory, demonstrating that the time development of the size distribution of metastases could not be explained by independent growth of metastatic foci. This led us to investigate the effect of spatial interactions between merging metastatic tumours on the dynamics of the global metastatic burden. We derived a mathematical model of spatial tumour growth, confronted it with experimental data of single metastatic tumour growth, and used it to provide insights on the dynamics of multiple tumours growing in close vicinity. Together, our results have implications for theories of the metastatic process and suggest that global dynamics of metastasis development is dependent on spatial interactions between metastatic lesions.
by Andrea Maesani, Pavan Ramdya, Steeve Cruchet, Kyle Gustafson, Richard Benton, Dario FloreanoThe neural mechanisms determining the timing of even simple actions, such as when to walk or rest, are largely mysterious. One intriguing, but untested, hypothesis posits a role for ongoing activity fluctuations in neurons of central action selection circuits that drive animal behavior from moment to moment. To examine how fluctuating activity can contribute to action timing, we paired high-resolution measurements of freely walking Drosophila melanogaster with data-driven neural network modeling and dynamical systems analysis. We generated fluctuation-driven network models whose outputs—locomotor bouts—matched those measured from sensory-deprived Drosophila. From these models, we identified those that could also reproduce a second, unrelated dataset: the complex time-course of odor-evoked walking for genetically diverse Drosophila strains. Dynamical models that best reproduced both Drosophila basal and odor-evoked locomotor patterns exhibited specific characteristics. First, ongoing fluctuations were required. In a stochastic resonance-like manner, these fluctuations allowed neural activity to escape stable equilibria and to exceed a threshold for locomotion. Second, odor-induced shifts of equilibria in these models caused a depression in locomotor frequency following olfactory stimulation. Our models predict that activity fluctuations in action selection circuits cause behavioral output to more closely match sensory drive and may therefore enhance navigation in complex sensory environments. Together these data reveal how simple neural dynamics, when coupled with activity fluctuations, can give rise to complex patterns of animal behavior.
Correction: Microbial Forensics: Predicting Phenotypic Characteristics and Environmental Conditions from Large-Scale Gene Expression Profiles
by The PLOS Computational Biology Staff
Computational Model of MicroRNA Control of HIF-VEGF Pathway: Insights into the Pathophysiology of Ischemic Vascular Disease and Cancer
by Chen Zhao, Aleksander S. PopelHRMs (hypoxia-responsive miRNAs) are a specific group of microRNAs that are regulated by hypoxia. Recent studies revealed that several HRMs including let-7 family miRNAs were highly induced in response to HIF (hypoxia-inducible factor) stabilization in hypoxia, and they potently participated in angiogenesis by targeting AGO1 (argonaute 1) and upregulating VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor). Here we constructed a novel computational model of microRNA control of HIF-VEGF pathway in endothelial cells to quantitatively investigate the role of HRMs in modulating the cellular adaptation to hypoxia. The model parameters were optimized and the simulations based on these parameters were validated against several published in vitro experimental data. To advance the mechanistic understanding of oxygen sensing in hypoxia, we demonstrated that the rate of HIF-1α nuclear import substantially influences its stabilization and the formation of HIF-1 transcription factor complex. We described the biological feedback loops involving let-7 and AGO1 in which the impact of external perturbations were minimized; as a pair of master regulators when low oxygen tension was sensed, they coordinated the critical process of VEGF desuppression in a controlled manner. Prompted by the model-motivated discoveries, we proposed and assessed novel pathway-specific therapeutics that modulate angiogenesis by adjusting VEGF synthesis in tumor and ischemic cardiovascular disease. Through simulations that capture the complex interactions between miRNAs and miRNA-processing molecules, this model explores an innovative perspective about the distinctive yet integrated roles of different miRNAs in angiogenesis, and it will help future research to elucidate the dysregulated miRNA profiles found in cancer and various cardiovascular diseases.
by Alberto Romagnoni, Jérôme Ribot, Daniel Bennequin, Jonathan TouboulThe layout of sensory brain areas is thought to subtend perception. The principles shaping these architectures and their role in information processing are still poorly understood. We investigate mathematically and computationally the representation of orientation and spatial frequency in cat primary visual cortex. We prove that two natural principles, local exhaustivity and parsimony of representation, would constrain the orientation and spatial frequency maps to display a very specific pinwheel-dipole singularity. This is particularly interesting since recent experimental evidences show a dipolar structures of the spatial frequency map co-localized with pinwheels in cat. These structures have important properties on information processing capabilities. In particular, we show using a computational model of visual information processing that this architecture allows a trade-off in the local detection of orientation and spatial frequency, but this property occurs for spatial frequency selectivity sharper than reported in the literature. We validated this sharpening on high-resolution optical imaging experimental data. These results shed new light on the principles at play in the emergence of functional architecture of cortical maps, as well as their potential role in processing information.
A Dual Model for Prioritizing Cancer Mutations in the Non-coding Genome Based on Germline and Somatic Events
by Jia Li, Marie-Anne Poursat, Damien Drubay, Arnaud Motz, Zohra Saci, Antonin Morillon, Stefan Michiels, Daniel GautheretWe address here the issue of prioritizing non-coding mutations in the tumoral genome. To this aim, we created two independent computational models. The first (germline) model estimates purifying selection based on population SNP data. The second (somatic) model estimates tumor mutation density based on whole genome tumor sequencing. We show that each model reflects a different set of constraints acting either on the normal or tumor genome, and we identify the specific genome features that most contribute to these constraints. Importantly, we show that the somatic mutation model carries independent functional information that can be used to narrow down the non-coding regions that may be relevant to cancer progression. On this basis, we identify positions in non-coding RNAs and the non-coding parts of mRNAs that are both under purifying selection in the germline and protected from mutation in tumors, thus introducing a new strategy for future detection of cancer driver elements in the expressed non-coding genome.
by Kimberly Glass, Michelle GirvanThe Gene Ontology (GO) provides biologists with a controlled terminology that describes how genes are associated with functions and how functional terms are related to one another. These term-term relationships encode how scientists conceive the organization of biological functions, and they take the form of a directed acyclic graph (DAG). Here, we propose that the network structure of gene-term annotations made using GO can be employed to establish an alternative approach for grouping functional terms that captures intrinsic functional relationships that are not evident in the hierarchical structure established in the GO DAG. Instead of relying on an externally defined organization for biological functions, our approach connects biological functions together if they are performed by the same genes, as indicated in a compendium of gene annotation data from numerous different sources. We show that grouping terms by this alternate scheme provides a new framework with which to describe and predict the functions of experimentally identified sets of genes.
Stochastic Regulation of her1/7 Gene Expression Is the Source of Noise in the Zebrafish Somite Clock Counteracted by Notch Signalling
by Robert P. Jenkins, Anja Hanisch, Cristian Soza-Ried, Erik Sahai, Julian LewisThe somite segmentation clock is a robust oscillator used to generate regularly-sized segments during early vertebrate embryogenesis. It has been proposed that the clocks of neighbouring cells are synchronised via inter-cellular Notch signalling, in order to overcome the effects of noisy gene expression. When Notch-dependent communication between cells fails, the clocks of individual cells operate erratically and lose synchrony over a period of about 5 to 8 segmentation clock cycles (2–3 hours in the zebrafish). Here, we quantitatively investigate the effects of stochasticity on cell synchrony, using mathematical modelling, to investigate the likely source of such noise. We find that variations in the transcription, translation and degradation rate of key Notch signalling regulators do not explain the in vivo kinetics of desynchronisation. Rather, the analysis predicts that clock desynchronisation, in the absence of Notch signalling, is due to the stochastic dissociation of Her1/7 repressor proteins from the oscillating her1/7 autorepressed target genes. Using in situ hybridisation to visualise sites of active her1 transcription, we measure an average delay of approximately three minutes between the times of activation of the two her1 alleles in a cell. Our model shows that such a delay is sufficient to explain the in vivo rate of clock desynchronisation in Notch pathway mutant embryos and also that Notch-mediated synchronisation is sufficient to overcome this stochastic variation. This suggests that the stochastic nature of repressor/DNA dissociation is the major source of noise in the segmentation clock.
by Peter C. St. John, Francis J. DoyleStochastic noise at the cellular level has been shown to play a fundamental role in circadian oscillations, influencing how groups of cells entrain to external cues and likely serving as the mechanism by which cell-autonomous rhythms are generated. Despite this importance, few studies have investigated how clock perturbations affect stochastic noise—even as increasing numbers of high-throughput screens categorize how gene knockdowns or small molecules can change clock period and amplitude. This absence is likely due to the difficulty associated with measuring cell-autonomous stochastic noise directly, which currently requires the careful collection and processing of single-cell data. In this study, we show that the damping rate of population-level bioluminescence recordings can serve as an accurate measure of overall stochastic noise, and one that can be applied to future and existing high-throughput circadian screens. Using cell-autonomous fibroblast data, we first show directly that higher noise at the single-cell results in faster damping at the population level. Next, we show that the damping rate of cultured cells can be changed in a dose-dependent fashion by small molecule modulators, and confirm that such a change can be explained by single-cell noise using a mathematical model. We further demonstrate the insights that can be gained by applying our method to a genome-wide siRNA screen, revealing that stochastic noise is altered independently from period, amplitude, and phase. Finally, we hypothesize that the unperturbed clock is highly optimized for robust rhythms, as very few gene perturbations are capable of simultaneously increasing amplitude and lowering stochastic noise. Ultimately, this study demonstrates the importance of considering the effect of circadian perturbations on stochastic noise, particularly with regard to the development of small-molecule circadian therapeutics.
by Joanne L. Dunster, Francoise Mazet, Michael J. Fry, Jonathan M. Gibbins, Marcus J. TindallWe present a data-driven mathematical model of a key initiating step in platelet activation, a central process in the prevention of bleeding following Injury. In vascular disease, this process is activated inappropriately and causes thrombosis, heart attacks and stroke. The collagen receptor GPVI is the primary trigger for platelet activation at sites of injury. Understanding the complex molecular mechanisms initiated by this receptor is important for development of more effective antithrombotic medicines. In this work we developed a series of nonlinear ordinary differential equation models that are direct representations of biological hypotheses surrounding the initial steps in GPVI-stimulated signal transduction. At each stage model simulations were compared to our own quantitative, high-temporal experimental data that guides further experimental design, data collection and model refinement. Much is known about the linear forward reactions within platelet signalling pathways but knowledge of the roles of putative reverse reactions are poorly understood. An initial model, that includes a simple constitutively active phosphatase, was unable to explain experimental data. Model revisions, incorporating a complex pathway of interactions (and specifically the phosphatase TULA-2), provided a good description of the experimental data both based on observations of phosphorylation in samples from one donor and in those of a wider population. Our model was used to investigate the levels of proteins involved in regulating the pathway and the effect of low GPVI levels that have been associated with disease. Results indicate a clear separation in healthy and GPVI deficient states in respect of the signalling cascade dynamics associated with Syk tyrosine phosphorylation and activation. Our approach reveals the central importance of this negative feedback pathway that results in the temporal regulation of a specific class of protein tyrosine phosphatases in controlling the rate, and therefore extent, of GPVI-stimulated platelet activation.
by Jordi Fonollosa, Emre Neftci, Mikhail RabinovichWe often learn and recall long sequences in smaller segments, such as a phone number 858 534 22 30 memorized as four segments. Behavioral experiments suggest that humans and some animals employ this strategy of breaking down cognitive or behavioral sequences into chunks in a wide variety of tasks, but the dynamical principles of how this is achieved remains unknown. Here, we study the temporal dynamics of chunking for learning cognitive sequences in a chunking representation using a dynamical model of competing modes arranged to evoke hierarchical Winnerless Competition (WLC) dynamics. Sequential memory is represented as trajectories along a chain of metastable fixed points at each level of the hierarchy, and bistable Hebbian dynamics enables the learning of such trajectories in an unsupervised fashion. Using computer simulations, we demonstrate the learning of a chunking representation of sequences and their robust recall. During learning, the dynamics associates a set of modes to each information-carrying item in the sequence and encodes their relative order. During recall, hierarchical WLC guarantees the robustness of the sequence order when the sequence is not too long. The resulting patterns of activities share several features observed in behavioral experiments, such as the pauses between boundaries of chunks, their size and their duration. Failures in learning chunking sequences provide new insights into the dynamical causes of neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and Schizophrenia.