An Agent-Based Model of Signal Transduction in Bacterial Chemotaxis

An Agent-Based Model of Signal Transduction in Bacterial Chemotaxis

Jameson Miller, Miles Parker, Robert B. Bourret, Morgan C. Giddings

PLoS ONE 5(5): e9454. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0009454


We report the application of agent-based modeling to examine the signal transduction network and receptor arrays for chemotaxis in Escherichia coli, which are responsible for regulating swimming behavior in response to environmental stimuli. Agent-based modeling is a stochastic and bottom-up approach, where individual components of the modeled system are explicitly represented, and bulk properties emerge from their movement and interactions. We present the Chemoscape model: a collection of agents representing both fixed membrane-embedded and mobile cytoplasmic proteins, each governed by a set of rules representing knowledge or hypotheses about their function. When the agents were placed in a simulated cellular space and then allowed to move and interact stochastically, the model exhibited many properties similar to the biological system including adaptation, high signal gain, and wide dynamic range. We found the agent based modeling approach to be both powerful and intuitive for testing hypotheses about biological properties such as self-assembly, the non-linear dynamics that occur through cooperative protein interactions, and non-uniform distributions of proteins in the cell. We applied the model to explore the role of receptor type, geometry and cooperativity in the signal gain and dynamic range of the chemotactic response to environmental stimuli. The model provided substantial qualitative evidence that the dynamic range of chemotactic response can be traced to both the heterogeneity of receptor types present, and the modulation of their cooperativity by their methylation state.

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