A Systems Biology Approach to Develop Models of Signal Transduction Pathways



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Mathematical models of signal transduction pathways are characterized by a large number of proteins and uncertain parameters, yet only a limited amount of quantitative data is available. The dissertation addresses this problem using two different approaches: the first approach deals with a model simplification procedure for signaling pathways that reduces the model size but retains the physical interpretation of the remaining states, while the second approach deals with creating rich data sets by computing transcription factor profiles from fluorescent images of green-fluorescent-protein (GFP) reporter cells. For the first approach a model simplification procedure for signaling pathway models is presented. The technique makes use of sensitivity and observability analysis to select the retained proteins for the simplified model. The presented technique is applied to an IL-6 signaling pathway model. It is found that the model size can be significantly reduced and the simplified model is able to adequately predict the dynamics of key proteins of the signaling pathway. An approach for quantitatively determining transcription factor profiles from GFP reporter data is developed as the second major contribution of this work. The procedure analyzes fluorescent images to determine fluorescence intensity profiles using principal component analysis and K-means clustering, and then computes the transcription factor concentration from the fluorescence intensity profiles by solving an inverse problem involving a model describing transcription, translation, and activation of green fluorescent proteins. Activation profiles of the transcription factors NF-?B, nuclear STAT3, and C/EBP? are obtained using the presented approach. The data for NF-?B is used to develop a model for TNF-? signal transduction while the data for nuclear STAT3 and C/EBP? is used to verify the simplified IL-6 model. Finally, an approach is developed to compute the distribution of transcription factor profiles among a population of cells. This approach consists of an algorithm for identifying individual fluorescent cells from fluorescent images, and an algorithm to compute the distribution of transcription factor profiles from the fluorescence intensity distribution by solving an inverse problem. The technique is applied to experimental data to derive the distribution of NF-?B concentrations from fluorescent images of a NF-?B GFP reporter system.