ABSTRACT: Ultrasensitivity, as described by Goldbeter and Koshland, has been considered for a long time as a way to realize bistable switches in biological systems. It is not as well recognized that when ultrasensitivity and reinforcing feedback loops are present in a spatially distributed system such as the cell plasmamembrane, they may induce bistability and spatial separation of the system into distinct signaling phases. Here we suggest that bistability of ultrasensitive signaling pathways in a diffusive environment provides a basic mechanism to realize cell membrane polarity. Cell membrane polarization is a fundamental process implicated in several basic biological phenomena, such as differentiation, proliferation, migration and morphogenesis of unicellular and multicellular organisms. We describe a simple, solvable model of cell membrane polarization based on the coupling of membrane diffusion with bistable enzymatic dynamics. The model can reproduce a broad range of symmetry-breaking events, such as those observed in eukaryotic directional sensing, the apico-basal polarization of epithelium cells, the polarization of budding and mating yeast, and the formation of Ras nanoclusters in several cell types.
Project description:Many physiological characteristics of living cells are regulated by protein interaction networks. Because the total numbers of these protein species can be small, molecular noise can have significant effects on the dynamical properties of a regulatory network. Computing these stochastic effects is made difficult by the large timescale separations typical of protein interactions (e.g., complex formation may occur in fractions of a second, whereas catalytic conversions may take minutes). Exact stochastic simulation may be very inefficient under these circumstances, and methods for speeding up the simulation without sacrificing accuracy have been widely studied. We show that the "total quasi-steady-state approximation" for enzyme-catalyzed reactions provides a useful framework for efficient and accurate stochastic simulations. The method is applied to three examples: a simple enzyme-catalyzed reaction where enzyme and substrate have comparable abundances, a Goldbeter-Koshland switch, where a kinase and phosphatase regulate the phosphorylation state of a common substrate, and coupled Goldbeter-Koshland switches that exhibit bistability. Simulations based on the total quasi-steady-state approximation accurately capture the steady-state probability distributions of all components of these reaction networks. In many respects, the approximation also faithfully reproduces time-dependent aspects of the fluctuations. The method is accurate even under conditions of poor timescale separation.
Project description:Ultrasensitivity allows filtering weak activating signals and responding emphatically to small changes in stronger stimuli. In the presence of positive feedback loops, ultrasensitivity enables the existence of bistability, which convert graded stimuli into switch-like, sometimes irreversible, responses. In this perspective, we discuss mechanisms that can potentially generate a bistable response in the phosphorylation/dephosphorylation monocycle that regulates the activity of cofilin in dynamic actin networks. We pay particular attention to the phosphatase Slingshot-1 (SSH-1), which is involved in a reciprocal regulation and a positive feedback loop for cofilin activation. Based on these signaling properties and experimental evidences, we propose that bistability in the cofilin signaling module might be instrumental in T cell responses to antigenic stimulation. Initially, a switch-like response in the amount of active cofilin as a function of SSH-1 activation might assist in controlling the naïve T cell specificity and sensitivity. Second, high concentrations of active cofilin might endow antigen-experienced T cells with faster and more efficient responses. We discuss the cofilin function in the context of T cell receptor triggering and spatial regulation of plasma membrane signaling molecules.
Project description:Signaling networks that convert graded stimuli into binary, all-or-none cellular responses are critical in processes ranging from cell-cycle control to lineage commitment. To exhaustively enumerate topologies that exhibit this switch-like behavior, we simulated all possible two- and three-component networks on random parameter sets, and assessed the resulting response profiles for both steepness (ultrasensitivity) and extent of memory (bistability). Simulations were used to study purely enzymatic networks, purely transcriptional networks, and hybrid enzymatic/transcriptional networks, and the topologies in each class were rank ordered by parametric robustness (i.e., the percentage of applied parameter sets exhibiting ultrasensitivity or bistability). Results reveal that the distribution of network robustness is highly skewed, with the most robust topologies clustering into a small number of motifs. Hybrid networks are the most robust in generating ultrasensitivity (up to 28%) and bistability (up to 18%); strikingly, a purely transcriptional framework is the most fragile in generating either ultrasensitive (up to 3%) or bistable (up to 1%) responses. The disparity in robustness among the network classes is due in part to zero-order ultrasensitivity, an enzyme-specific phenomenon, which repeatedly emerges as a particularly robust mechanism for generating nonlinearity and can act as a building block for switch-like responses. We also highlight experimentally studied examples of topologies enabling switching behavior, in both native and synthetic systems, that rank highly in our simulations. This unbiased approach for identifying topologies capable of a given response may be useful in discovering new natural motifs and in designing robust synthetic gene networks.
Project description:Three-dimensional (3D) printing is ideal for the fabrication of various customized 3D components with fine details and material-design complexities. However, most components fabricated so far have been static structures with fixed shapes and functions. Here we introduce bistability to 3D printing to realize highly-controlled, reconfigurable structures. Particularly, we demonstrate 3D printing of twisting and rotational bistable structures. To this end, we have introduced special joints to construct twisting and rotational structures without post-assembly. Bistability produces a well-defined energy diagram, which is important for precise motion control and reconfigurable structures. Therefore, these bistable structures can be useful for simplified motion control in actuators or for mechanical switches. Moreover, we demonstrate tunable bistable components exploiting shape memory polymers. We can readjust the bistability-energy diagram (barrier height, slope, displacement, symmetry) after printing and achieve tunable bistability. This tunability can significantly increase the use of bistable structures in various 3D-printed components.
Project description:We propose a modified Kretschmann-Raether configuration to realize the low threshold optical bistable devices at the terahertz frequencies. The metal layer is replaced by the dielectric sandwich structure with the insertion of graphene, and this configuration can support TM-polarization surface electromagnetic wave. The surface plasmon resonance is strongly dependent on the Fermi-level of graphene and the thickness of the sandwich structure. It is found that the switching-up and switching-down intensities required to observe the optical bistable behavior are lowered markedly due to the excitation of the graphene surface plasmons, thus making this configuration a prime candidate for experimental investigation at the terahertz range. And the switching threshold value can be further reduced by decreasing the Fermi-level or increasing the thickness of sandwich structure, hence providing a new way for realizing tunable optical bistable devices. Finally, the optical bistability at higher terahertz frequency and the influence of relaxation time under the actual experimental condition on Fermi-level are discussed.
Project description:Cdc25C is a critical component of the interlinked positive and double-negative feedback loops that constitute the bistable mitotic trigger. Computational studies have indicated that the trigger's bistability should be more robust if the individual legs of the loops exhibit ultrasensitive responses. Here, we show that in Xenopus extracts two measures of Cdc25C activation (hyperphosphorylation and Ser 287 dephosphorylation) are highly ultrasensitive functions of the Cdk1 activity; estimated Hill coefficients were 11 to 32. Some of Cdc25C's ultrasensitivity can be reconstituted in vitro with purified components, and the reconstituted ultrasensitivity depends upon multisite phosphorylation. The response functions determined here for Cdc25C and previously for Wee1A allow us to formulate a simple mathematical model of the transition between interphase and mitosis. The model shows how the continuously variable regulators of mitosis work collectively to generate a switch-like, hysteretic response.
Project description:In metabolic networks, metabolites are usually present in great excess over the enzymes that catalyze their interconversion, and describing the rates of these reactions by using the Michaelis-Menten rate law is perfectly valid. This rate law assumes that the concentration of enzyme-substrate complex (C) is much less than the free substrate concentration (S0). However, in protein interaction networks, the enzymes and substrates are all proteins in comparable concentrations, and neglecting C with respect to S0 is not valid. Borghans, DeBoer, and Segel developed an alternative description of enzyme kinetics that is valid when C is comparable to S0. We extend this description, which Borghans et al. call the total quasi-steady state approximation, to networks of coupled enzymatic reactions. First, we analyze an isolated Goldbeter-Koshland switch when enzymes and substrates are present in comparable concentrations. Then, on the basis of a real example of the molecular network governing cell cycle progression, we couple two and three Goldbeter-Koshland switches together to study the effects of feedback in networks of protein kinases and phosphatases. Our analysis shows that the total quasi-steady state approximation provides an excellent kinetic formalism for protein interaction networks, because (1) it unveils the modular structure of the enzymatic reactions, (2) it suggests a simple algorithm to formulate correct kinetic equations, and (3) contrary to classical Michaelis-Menten kinetics, it succeeds in faithfully reproducing the dynamics of the network both qualitatively and quantitatively.
Project description:Bistability arises within a wide range of biological systems from the lambda phage switch in bacteria to cellular signal transduction pathways in mammalian cells. Changes in regulatory mechanisms may result in genetic switching in a bistable system. Recently, more and more experimental evidence in the form of bimodal population distributions indicates that noise plays a very important role in the switching of bistable systems. Although deterministic models have been used for studying the existence of bistability properties under various system conditions, these models cannot realize cell-to-cell fluctuations in genetic switching. However, there is a lag in the development of stochastic models for studying the impact of noise in bistable systems because of the lack of detailed knowledge of biochemical reactions, kinetic rates, and molecular numbers. In this work, we develop a previously undescribed general technique for developing quantitative stochastic models for large-scale genetic regulatory networks by introducing Poisson random variables into deterministic models described by ordinary differential equations. Two stochastic models have been proposed for the genetic toggle switch interfaced with either the SOS signaling pathway or a quorum-sensing signaling pathway, and we have successfully realized experimental results showing bimodal population distributions. Because the introduced stochastic models are based on widely used ordinary differential equation models, the success of this work suggests that this approach is a very promising one for studying noise in large-scale genetic regulatory networks.
Project description:Cell signaling is achieved predominantly by reversible phosphorylation-dephosphorylation reaction cascades. Up until now, circuits conferring adaptation have all required the presence of a cascade with some type of closed topology: negative-feedback loop with a buffering node, or incoherent feed-forward loop with a proportioner node. In this paper--using Goldbeter and Koshland-type expressions--we propose a differential equation model to describe a generic, open signaling cascade that elicits an adaptation response. This is accomplished by coupling N phosphorylation-dephosphorylation cycles unidirectionally, without any explicit feedback loops. Using this model, we show that as the length of the cascade grows, the steady states of the downstream cycles reach a limiting value. In other words, our model indicates that there are a minimum number of cycles required to achieve a maximum in sensitivity and amplitude in the response of a signaling cascade. We also describe for the first time that the phenomenon of ultrasensitivity can be further subdivided into three sub-regimes, separated by sharp stimulus threshold values: OFF, OFF-ON-OFF, and ON. In the OFF-ON-OFF regime, an interesting property emerges. In the presence of a basal amount of activity, the temporal evolution of early cycles yields damped peak responses. On the other hand, the downstream cycles switch rapidly to a higher activity state for an extended period of time, prior to settling to an OFF state (OFF-ON-OFF). This response arises from the changing dynamics between a feed-forward activation module and dephosphorylation reactions. In conclusion, our model gives the new perspective that open signaling cascades embedded in complex biochemical circuits may possess the ability to show a switch-like adaptation response, without the need for any explicit feedback circuitry.
Project description:Bistability is a common mechanism to ensure robust and irreversible cell cycle transitions. Whenever biological parameters or external conditions change such that a threshold is crossed, the system abruptly switches between different cell cycle states. Experimental studies have uncovered mechanisms that can make the shape of the bistable response curve change dynamically in time. Here, we show how such a dynamically changing bistable switch can provide a cell with better control over the timing of cell cycle transitions. Moreover, cell cycle oscillations built on bistable switches are more robust when the bistability is modulated in time. Our results are not specific to cell cycle models and may apply to other bistable systems in which the bistable response curve is time-dependent.