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The genotype-phenotype relationship in multicellular pattern-generating models - the neglected role of pattern descriptors

By Harald Martens, Siren R. Veflingstad, Erik Plahte, M. (Magni) Martens, Dominique Bertrand and Stig W. Omholt


Background: A deep understanding of what causes the phenotypic variation arising from biological patterning\ud processes, cannot be claimed before we are able to recreate this variation by mathematical models capable of\ud generating genotype-phenotype maps in a causally cohesive way. However, the concept of pattern in a\ud multicellular context implies that what matters is not the state of every single cell, but certain emergent qualities\ud of the total cell aggregate. Thus, in order to set up a genotype-phenotype map in such a spatiotemporal pattern\ud setting one is actually forced to establish new pattern descriptors and derive their relations to parameters of the\ud original model. A pattern descriptor is a variable that describes and quantifies a certain qualitative feature of the\ud pattern, for example the degree to which certain macroscopic structures are present. There is today no general\ud procedure for how to relate a set of patterns and their characteristic features to the functional relationships,\ud parameter values and initial values of an original pattern-generating model. Here we present a new, generic\ud approach for explorative analysis of complex patterning models which focuses on the essential pattern features\ud and their relations to the model parameters. The approach is illustrated on an existing model for Delta-Notch\ud lateral inhibition over a two-dimensional lattice. \ud Results: By combining computer simulations according to a succession of statistical experimental designs,\ud computer graphics, automatic image analysis, human sensory descriptive analysis and multivariate data modelling,\ud we derive a pattern descriptor model of those macroscopic, emergent aspects of the patterns that we consider\ud of interest. The pattern descriptor model relates the values of the new, dedicated pattern descriptors to the\ud parameter values of the original model, for example by predicting the parameter values leading to particular\ud patterns, and provides insights that would have been hard to obtain by traditional methods. \ud Conclusion: The results suggest that our approach may qualify as a general procedure for how to discover and\ud relate relevant features and characteristics of emergent patterns to the functional relationships, parameter values\ud and initial values of an underlying pattern-generating mathematical model

Topics: QH426
Publisher: BioMed Central Ltd.
Year: 2009
OAI identifier: oai:wrap.warwick.ac.uk:2169

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