Background: Analyzing the long-term behaviors (attractors) of dynamic models of biological systems can provide valuable insight into biological phenotypes and their stability. In this paper we identify the allowed long-term behaviors of a multi-level, 70-node dynamic model of the stomatal opening process in plants. Results: We start by reducing the model's huge state space. We first reduce unregulated nodes and simple mediator nodes, then simplify the regulatory functions of selected nodes while keeping the model consistent with experimental observations. We perform attractor analysis on the resulting 32-node reduced model by two methods: 1. converting it into a Boolean model, then applying two attractor-finding algorithms; 2. theoretical analysis of the regulatory functions. We further demonstrate the robustness of signal propagation by showing that a large percentage of single-node knockouts does not affect the stomatal opening level. Conclusions: Combining both methods with analysis of perturbation scenarios, we conclude that all nodes except two in the reduced model have a single attractor; and only two nodes can admit oscillations. The multistability or oscillations of these four nodes do not affect the stomatal opening level in any situation. This conclusion applies to the original model as well in all the biologically meaningful cases. In addition, the stomatal opening level is resilient against single-node knockouts. Thus, we conclude that the complex structure of this signal transduction network provides multiple information propagation pathways while not allowing extensive multistability or oscillations, resulting in robust signal propagation. Our innovative combination of methods offers a promising way to analyze multi-level models.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Structural Biology
- Modeling and Simulation
- Molecular Biology
- Computer Science Applications
- Applied Mathematics