Mammalian Cell Cycle Regulation
The timing of DNA synthesis, mitosis, and cell division is regulated by a complex network of biochemical reactions that control the activities of a family of cyclin-dependent kinases. The temporal dynamics of this reaction network is typically modeled by nonlinear differential equations describing the rates of the component reactions. This approach provides exquisite details about molecular regulatory processes but is hampered by the need to estimate realistic values for the many kinetic constants that determine the reaction rates. It is difficult to estimate these kinetic constants from available experimental data. To avoid this problem, modelers often resort to ‘qualitative’ modeling strategies, such as Boolean switching networks, but these models
describe only the coarsest features of cell cycle regulation. In this chapter it describes a hybrid approach that combines the best features of continuous differential equations and discrete Boolean networks. Cyclin abundances are tracked by piecewise linear differential equations for cyclin synthesis and degradation. The cyclin synthesis is regulated by transcription factors whose activities are represented by discrete variables (0 or 1) and likewise for the activities of the ubiquitin-ligating enzyme complexes that govern cyclin degradation. The discrete variables change according to a predetermined sequence, with the times between transitions determined in part by cyclin accumulation and degradation and as well by exponentially distributed random variables. The model is evaluated in terms of flow cytometry measurements of cyclin proteins in asynchronous populations of human cell lines. The few kinetic constants in the model are easily estimated from the experimental data. Using this hybrid approach, modelers can quickly create quantitatively accurate, computational models of protein regulatory networks in cells.