Simulating the impact of a molecular 'decision-process' on cellular phenotype and multicellular patterns in brain tumors

Publication Type:

Journal Article


J Theor Biol, Volume 233, Issue 4, p.469-81 (2005)


Brain Neoplasms, Cell Movement, Cell Proliferation, Computer Simulation, Decision Support Techniques, Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic, Glioma, Glucose, Humans, Models, Genetic, Phenotype, Phospholipase C gamma, Receptor, Epidermal Growth Factor, Signal Transduction, Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha, Type C Phospholipases


Experimental evidence indicates that human brain cancer cells proliferate or migrate, yet do not display both phenotypes at the same time. Here, we present a novel computational model simulating this cellular decision-process leading up to either phenotype based on a molecular interaction network of genes and proteins. The model's regulatory network consists of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), its ligand transforming growth factor-alpha (TGF alpha), the downstream enzyme phospholipaseC-gamma (PLC gamma) and a mitosis-associated response pathway. This network is activated by autocrine TGF alpha secretion, and the EGFR-dependent downstream signaling this step triggers, as well as modulated by an extrinsic nutritive glucose gradient. Employing a framework of mass action kinetics within a multiscale agent-based environment, we analyse both the emergent multicellular behavior of tumor growth and the single-cell molecular profiles that change over time and space. Our results show that one can indeed simulate the dichotomy between cell migration and proliferation based solely on an EGFR decision network. It turns out that these behavioral decisions on the single cell level impact the spatial dynamics of the entire cancerous system. Furthermore, the simulation results yield intriguing experimentally testable hypotheses also on the sub-cellular level such as spatial cytosolic polarization of PLC gamma towards an extrinsic chemotactic gradient. Implications of these results for future works, both on the modeling and experimental side are discussed.
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