Measurement and Modeling of Signaling at a Single-Cell Level

Department of Biological Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology , Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, United States.
Biochemistry (Impact Factor: 3.02). 09/2012; 51(38). DOI: 10.1021/bi300846p
Source: PubMed


It has long been recognized that a deeper understanding of cell function, with respect to execution of phenotypic behaviors and their regulation by the extracellular environment, is likely to be achieved by analyzing the underlying molecular processes for individual cells selected from across a population, rather than averages of many cells comprising that population. In recent years, experimental and computational methods for undertaking these analyses have advanced rapidly. In this review, we provide a perspective on both measurement and modeling facets of biochemistry at a single-cell level. Our central focus is on receptor-mediated signaling networks that regulate cell phenotypic functions.

Full-text preview

Available from:
  • Source
    • "It has also been shown that FGFs act as angiogenic growth factors that control capillary endothelial cell proliferation for vascular development [14]. A central paradigm of signaling pathways is that ligands bind to and activate cell-membrane bound receptors, which in turn leads to activation of intracellular cascades [15,16]. Typically, binding of a monomeric ligand to a monomeric receptor follows Michaelis-Menten reaction kinetics. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Background The Fibroblast Growth Factor (FGF) pathway is driving various aspects of cellular responses in both normal and malignant cells. One interesting characteristic of this pathway is the biphasic nature of the cellular response to some FGF ligands like FGF2. Specifically, it has been shown that phenotypic behaviors controlled by FGF signaling, like migration and growth, reach maximal levels in response to intermediate concentrations, while high levels of FGF2 elicit weak responses. The mechanisms leading to the observed biphasic response remains unexplained. Results A combination of experiments and computational modeling was used to understand the mechanism behind the observed biphasic signaling responses. FGF signaling involves a tertiary surface interaction that we captured with a computational model based on Ordinary Differential Equations (ODEs). It accounts for FGF2 binding to FGF receptors (FGFRs) and heparan sulfate glycosaminoglycans (HSGAGs), followed by receptor-phosphorylation, activation of the FRS2 adapter protein and the Ras-Raf signaling cascade. Quantitative protein assays were used to measure the dynamics of phosphorylated ERK (pERK) in response to a wide range of FGF2 ligand concentrations on a fine-grained time scale for the squamous cell lung cancer cell line H1703. We developed a novel approach combining Particle Swarm Optimization (PSO) and feature-based constraints in the objective function to calibrate the computational model to the experimental data. The model is validated using a series of extracellular and intracellular perturbation experiments. We demonstrate that in silico model predictions are in accordance with the observed in vitro results. Conclusions Using a combined approach of computational modeling and experiments we found that competition between binding of the ligand FGF2 to HSGAG and FGF receptor leads to the biphasic response. At low to intermediate concentrations of FGF2 there are sufficient free FGF receptors available for the FGF2-HSGAG complex to enable the formation of the trimeric signaling unit. At high ligand concentrations the ligand binding sites of the receptor become saturated and the trimeric signaling unit cannot be formed. This insight into the pathway is an important consideration for the pharmacological inhibition of this pathway.
    Full-text · Article · May 2014 · Cell Communication and Signaling
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Populations of 'identical' cells are rarely truly identical. Even when in the same state of differentiation, isogenic cells may vary in expression of key signaling regulators, activate signal transduction at different thresholds, and consequently respond heterogeneously to a given stimulus. Here, we review how new experimental and analytical techniques are suited to connect these different levels of variability, quantitatively mapping the effects of cell-to-cell variability on cellular decision-making. In particular, we summarize how this helps classify signaling regulators according to the impact of their variability on biological functions. We further discuss how variability can also be leveraged to shed light on the molecular mechanisms regulating cellular signaling, from the individual cell to the population of cells as a whole.
    No preview · Article · Jun 2013 · Current Opinion in Biotechnology
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Logic modeling is a useful tool to study signal transduction across multiple pathways. Logic models can be generated by training a network containing the prior knowledge to phospho-proteomics data. The training can be performed using stochastic optimization procedures, but these are unable to guarantee a global optima nor to report the complete family of feasible models. This, however, is essential to provide precise insight in the mechanisms underlaying signal transduction and generate reliable predictions. We propose the use of Answer Set Programming (ASP) to explore exhaustively the space of feasible logic models. Towards this end, we have developed caspo, an open-source Python package which provides a powerful platform to learn and characterize logic models by leveraging the rich modeling language and solving technologies of ASP. We illustrate the usefulness of caspo by revisiting a model of pro-growth and inflammatory pathways in liver cells. We show that, if experimental error is taken into account, there are thousands (11,700) of models compatible with the data. Despite the large number, we can extract structural features from the models, such as links that are always (or never) present or modules that appear in a mutual exclusive fashion. To further characterize this family of models, we investigate the input-output behavior of the models. We find 91 behaviors across the 11,700 models and we suggest new experiments to discriminate among them. Our results underscore the importance of characterizing in a global and exhaustive manner the family of feasible models, with important implications for experimental design. caspo is freely available for download (license GPLv3) and as a web service at
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2013 · Bioinformatics
Show more