A hierarchical approach to model parameter optimization for developmental systems
In the context of Systems Biology, computer simulations of gene regulatory networks provide a powerful tool to validate hypotheses and to explore possible system behaviors. Nevertheless, modeling a system poses some challenges of its own: especially the step of model calibration is often difficult due to insufficient data. For example when considering developmental systems, mostly qualitative data describing the developmental trajectory is available while common calibration techniques rely on high-resolution quantitative data. Focusing on the calibration of differential equation models for developmental systems, this study investigates different approaches to utilize the available data to overcome these difficulties. More specifically, the fact that developmental processes are hierarchically organized is exploited to increase convergence rates of the calibration process as well as to save computation time. Using a gene regulatory network model for stem cell homeostasis in Arabidopsis thaliana the performance of the different investigated approaches is evaluated, documenting considerable gains provided by the proposed hierarchical approach.