An incoherent feed-forward loop (FFL) is one of the most-frequently observed motifs in biomolecular regulatory networks. It has been thought that the incoherent FFL is designed simply to induce a transient response shaped by a 'fast activation and delayed inhibition'. We find that the dynamics of various incoherent FFLs can be further classified into two types: time-dependent biphasic responses and dose-dependent biphasic responses. Why do the structurally identical incoherent FFLs play such different dynamical roles? Through computational studies, we show that the dynamics of the two types of incoherent FFLs are mutually exclusive. Following from further computational results and experimental observations, we hypothesize that incoherent FFLs have been optimally designed to achieve distinct biological function arising from different cellular contexts. Additional Supporting Information may be found in the online version of the article.
Cellular circuits have positive and negative feedback loops that allow them to respond properly to noisy external stimuli. It is intriguing that such feedback loops exist in many cases in a particular form of coupled positive and negative feedback loops with different time delays. As a result of our mathematical simulations and investigations into various experimental evidences, we found that such coupled feedback circuits can rapidly turn on a reaction to a proper stimulus, robustly maintain its status, and immediately turn off the reaction when the stimulus disappears. In other words, coupled feedback loops enable cellular systems to produce perfect responses to noisy stimuli with respect to signal duration and amplitude. This suggests that coupled positive and negative feedback loops form essential signal transduction motifs in cellular signaling systems.
Through extensive computational experiments, we found that networks with a larger number of positive feedback loops and a smaller number of negative feedback loops are likely to be more robust against perturbations. Moreover, we found that the nodes of a robust network subject to perturbations are mostly involved with a smaller number of feedback loops compared with the other nodes not usually subject to perturbations. This topological characteristic eventually makes the robust network fragile against unexpected mutations at the nodes not previously exposed to perturbations.
The network of biomolecular interactions that occurs within cells is large and complex. When such a network is analyzed, it can be helpful to reduce the complexity of the network to a "kernel" that maintains the essential regulatory functions for the output under consideration. We developed an algorithm to identify such a kernel and showed that the resultant kernel preserves the network dynamics. Using an integrated network of all of the human signaling pathways retrieved from the KEGG (Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes) database, we identified this network's kernel and compared the properties of the kernel to those of the original network. We found that the percentage of essential genes to the genes encoding nodes outside of the kernel was about 10%, whereas ~32% of the genes encoding nodes within the kernel were essential. In addition, we found that 95% of the kernel nodes corresponded to Mendelian disease genes and that 93% of synthetic lethal pairs associated with the network were contained in the kernel. Genes corresponding to nodes in the kernel had low evolutionary rates, were ubiquitously expressed in various tissues, and were well conserved between species. Furthermore, kernel genes included many drug targets, suggesting that other kernel nodes may be potential drug targets. Owing to the simplification of the entire network, the efficient modeling of a large-scale signaling network and an understanding of the core structure within a complex framework become possible.
Boolean networks have been frequently used to study the dynamics of biological networks. In particular, there have been various studies showing that the network connectivity and the update rule of logical functions affect the dynamics of Boolean networks. There has been, however, relatively little attention paid to the dynamical role of a feedback loop, which is a circular chain of interactions between Boolean variables. We note that such feedback loops are ubiquitously found in various biological systems as multiple coupled structures and they are often the primary cause of complex dynamics. In this article, we investigate the relationship between the multiple coupled feedback loops and the dynamics of Boolean networks. We show that networks have a larger proportion of basins corresponding to fixed-point attractors as they have more coupled positive feedback loops, and a larger proportion of basins for limit-cycle attractors as they have more coupled negative feedback loops.
BackgroundInferring a gene regulatory network from time-series gene expression data in systems biology is a challenging problem. Many methods have been suggested, most of which have a scalability limitation due to the combinatorial cost of searching a regulatory set of genes. In addition, they have focused on the accurate inference of a network structure only. Therefore, there is a pressing need to develop a network inference method to search regulatory genes efficiently and to predict the network dynamics accurately.ResultsIn this study, we employed a Boolean network model with a restricted update rule scheme to capture coarse-grained dynamics, and propose a novel mutual information-based Boolean network inference (MIBNI) method. Given time-series gene expression data as an input, the method first identifies a set of initial regulatory genes using mutual information-based feature selection, and then improves the dynamics prediction accuracy by iteratively swapping a pair of genes between sets of the selected regulatory genes and the other genes. Through extensive simulations with artificial datasets, MIBNI showed consistently better performance than six well-known existing methods, REVEAL, Best-Fit, RelNet, CST, CLR, and BIBN in terms of both structural and dynamics prediction accuracy. We further tested the proposed method with two real gene expression datasets for an Escherichia coli gene regulatory network and a fission yeast cell cycle network, and also observed better results using MIBNI compared to the six other methods.ConclusionsTaken together, MIBNI is a promising tool for predicting both the structure and the dynamics of a gene regulatory network.
To establish that coherent FFLs are abundant in biological networks, we examined gene regulatory and signaling networks and found that FFLs are ubiquitous, and are in a coherently coupled form. This result was also observed in the species-based signaling networks that are integrated from KEGG database. By using a random Boolean network model, we demonstrated that these coherent FFLs can improve network robustness against update-rule perturbations. In particular, we found that coherent FFLs increase robustness because these structures induce downstream nodes to be robust against update-rule perturbations. Therefore, coherent FFLs can be considered as a design principle of human signaling networks that improve network robustness against update-rule perturbations.
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