Estimating the Stochastic Bifurcation Structure of Cellular Networks
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High throughput measurement of gene expression at single-cell resolution, combined with systematic perturbation of environmental or cellular variables, provides information that can be used to generate novel insight into the properties of gene regulatory networks by linking cellular responses to external parameters. In dynamical systems theory, this information is the subject of bifurcation analysis, which establishes how system-level behaviour changes as a function of parameter values within a given deterministic mathematical model. Since cellular networks are inherently noisy, we generalize the traditional bifurcation diagram of deterministic systems theory to stochastic dynamical systems. We demonstrate how statistical methods for density estimation, in particular, mixture density and conditional mixture density estimators, can be employed to establish empirical bifurcation diagrams describing the bistable genetic switch network controlling galactose utilization in yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. These approaches allow us to make novel qualitative and quantitative observations about the switching behavior of the galactose network, and provide a framework that might be useful to extract information needed for the development of quantitative network models.
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