In many developing plant tissues and organs, differentiating cells switch from the classical cell cycle to an alternative partial cycle. This partial cycle bypasses mitosis and allows for multiple rounds of genome duplication without cell division, giving rise to cells with high ploidy numbers. This partial cycle is referred to as endoreduplication. Cell division and endoreduplication are important processes for biomass allocation and yield in tomato. Quantitative trait loci for tomato fruit size or weight are frequently associated with variations in the pericarp cell number, and due to the tight connection between endoreduplication and cell expansion and the prevalence of polyploidy in storage tissues, a functional correlation between nuclear ploidy number and cell growth has also been implicated (karyoplasmic ratio theory). In this paper, we assess the applicability of putative mechanisms for the onset of endoreduplication in tomato pericarp cells via development of a mathematical model for the cell cycle gene regulatory network. We focus on targets for regulation of the transition to endoreduplication by the phytohormone auxin, which is known to play a vital role in the onset of cell expansion and differentiation in developing tomato fruit. We show that several putative mechanisms are capable of inducing the onset of endoreduplication. This redundancy in explanatory mechanisms is explained by analysing system behaviour as a function of their combined action. Namely, when all these routes to endoreduplication are used in a combined fashion, robustness of the regulation of the transition to endoreduplication is greatly improved.
Biochemical systems involving a high number of components with intricate interactions often lead to complex models containing a large number of parameters. Although a large model could describe in detail the mechanisms that underlie the system, its very large size may hinder us in understanding the key elements of the system. Also in terms of parameter identification, large models are often problematic. Therefore, a reduced model may be preferred to represent the system. Yet, in order to efficaciously replace the large model, the reduced model should have the same ability as the large model to produce reliable predictions for a broad set of testable experimental conditions. We present a novel method to extract an "optimal" reduced model from a large model to represent biochemical systems by combining a reduction method and a model discrimination method. The former assures that the reduced model contains only those components that are important to produce the dynamics observed in given experiments, whereas the latter ensures that the reduced model gives a good prediction for any feasible experimental conditions that are relevant to answer questions at hand. These two techniques are applied iteratively. The method reveals the biological core of a model mathematically, indicating the processes that are likely to be responsible for certain behavior. We demonstrate the algorithm on two realistic model examples. We show that in both cases the core is substantially smaller than the full model.
Robustness is an essential feature of biological systems, and any mathematical model that describes such a system should reflect this feature. Especially, persistence of oscillatory behavior is an important issue. A benchmark model for this phenomenon is the Laub-Loomis model, a nonlinear model for cAMP oscillations in Dictyostelium discoideum. This model captures the most important features of biomolecular networks oscillating at constant frequencies. Nevertheless, the robustness of its oscillatory behavior is not yet fully understood. Given a system that exhibits oscillating behavior for some set of parameters, the central question of robustness is how far the parameters may be changed, such that the qualitative behavior does not change. The determination of such a "robustness region" in parameter space is an intricate task. If the number of parameters is high, it may be also time consuming. In the literature, several methods are proposed that partially tackle this problem. For example, some methods only detect particular bifurcations, or only find a relatively small box-shaped estimate for an irregularly shaped robustness region. Here, we present an approach that is much more general, and is especially designed to be efficient for systems with a large number of parameters. As an illustration, we apply the method first to a well understood low-dimensional system, the Rosenzweig-MacArthur model. This is a predator-prey model featuring satiation of the predator. It has only two parameters and its bifurcation diagram is available in the literature. We find a good agreement with the existing knowledge about this model. When we apply the new method to the high dimensional Laub-Loomis model, we obtain a much larger robustness region than reported earlier in the literature. This clearly demonstrates the power of our method. From the results, we conclude that the biological system underlying is much more robust than was realized until now.
The complexity of biochemical systems, stemming from both the large number of components and the intricate interactions between these components, may hinder us in understanding the behavior of these systems. Therefore, effective methods are required to capture their key components and interactions. Here, we present a novel and efficient reduction method to simplify mathematical models of biochemical systems. Our method is based on the exploration of the so-called admissible region, that is the set of parameters for which the mathematical model yields some required output. From the shape of the admissible region, parameters that are really required in generating the output of the system can be identified and hence retained in the model, whereas the rest is removed. To describe the idea, first the admissible region of a very small artificial network with only three nodes and three parameters is determined. Despite its simplicity, this network reveals all the basic ingredients of our reduction method. The method is then applied to an epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) network model. It turns out that only about 34% of the network components are required to yield the correct response to the epidermal growth factor (EGF) that was measured in the experiments, whereas the rest could be considered as redundant for this purpose. Furthermore, it is shown that parameter sensitivity on its own is not a reliable tool for model reduction, because highly sensitive parameters are not always retained, whereas slightly sensitive parameters are not always removable.
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