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Several papers on endogenous network theory have been published!

For osteoprosis:

  • Yuan, R.-S.; Ma, S.-F.; Zhu, X.-M.; Li, J.; Liang, Y.-H.; Liu, T.; Zhu, Y.-X.; Zhang, B.-B.; Tan, S.; Guo, H.-J. ; Guan, S.-G.; Ao, P. & Zhou G.-Q., Core Level Regulatory Network of Osteoblast as Molecular Mechanism for Osteoporosis and Treatment, Oncotarget, 2016, 6923

Abstract: To develop and evaluate the long-term prophylactic treatment for chronic diseases such as osteoporosis requires a clear view of mechanism at the molecular and systems level. While molecular signaling pathway studies for osteoporosis are extensive, a unifying mechanism is missing. In this work, we provide experimental and systems-biology evidences that a tightly connected top-level regulatory network may exist, which governs the normal and osteoporotic phenotypes of osteoblast. Specifically, we constructed a hub-like interaction network from well-documented cross-talks among estrogens, glucocorticoids, retinoic acids, peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor, vitamin D receptor and calcium-signaling pathways. The network was verified with transmission electron microscopy and gene expression profiling for bone tissues of ovariectomized (OVX) rats before and after strontium gluconate (GluSr) treatment. Based on both the network structure and the experimental data, the dynamical modeling predicts calcium and glucocorticoids signaling pathways as targets for GluSr treatment. Modeling results further reveal that in the context of missing estrogen signaling, the GluSr treated state may be an outcome that is closest to the healthy state.


Gastric cancer:

  • Li, S.-T.; Zhu, X.-M.; Liu, B.-Y.; Wang, G.-W. & Ao, P., Endogenous Molecular Network Reveals Two Mechanisms of Heterogeneity within Gastric Cancer, Oncotarget, 2015, 3633

Abstract: Intratumor heterogeneity is a common phenomenon and impedes cancer therapy and research. Gastric cancer (GC) cells have generally been classified into two heterogeneous cellular phenotypes, the gastric and intestinal types, yet the mechanisms of maintaining two phenotypes and controlling phenotypic transition are largely unknown. A qualitative systematic framework, the endogenous molecular network hypothesis, has recently been proposed to understand cancer genesis and progression. Here, a minimal network corresponding to such framework was found for GC and was quantified via a stochastic nonlinear dynamical system. We then further extended the framework to address the important question of intratumor heterogeneity quantitatively. The working network characterized main known features of normal gastric epithelial and GC cell phenotypes. Our results demonstrated that four positive feedback loops in the network are critical for GC cell phenotypes. Moreover, two mechanisms that contribute to GC cell heterogeneity were identified: particular positive feedback loops are responsible for the maintenance of intestinal and gastric phenotypes; GC cell progression routes that were revealed by the dynamical behaviors of individual key components are heterogeneous. In this work, we constructed an endogenous molecular network of GC that can be expanded in the future and would broaden the known mechanisms of intratumor heterogeneity.


Prostate cancer:

  • Zhu, X.-M.; Yuan, R.-S.; Hood, L. & Ao, P., Endogenous Molecular-Cellular Hierarchical Modeling of Prostate Carcinogenesis Uncovers Robust Structure, Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology2015, 117(1): 30-42

Abstract: We explored endogenous molecular-cellular network hypothesis for prostate cancer by constructing relevant endogenous interaction network model and analyzing its dynamical properties. Molecular regulations involved in cell proliferation, apoptosis, differentiation and metabolism are included in a hierarchical mathematical modeling scheme. This dynamical network organizes into multiple robust functional states, including physiological and pathological ones. Some states have characteristics of cancer: elevated metabolic and immune activities, high concentration of growth factors and different proliferative, apoptotic and adhesive behaviors. The molecular profile of calculated cancer state agrees with existing experiments. The modeling results have additional predictions which may be validated by further experiment: 1) Prostate supports both stem cell like and liver style proliferation; 2) While prostate supports multiple cell types, including basal, luminal and endocrine cell type differentiated from its stem cell, luminal cell is most likely to be transformed malignantly into androgen independent type cancer; 3) Retinoic acid pathway and C/EBPα are possible therapeutic targets.


Liver cancer:

  • Wang, G.-W.; Zhu, X.-M.; Gu, J.-R. & Ao, P., Quantitative Implementation of Endogenous Molecular-Cellular Network Hypothesis in Hepatocellular carcinoma, Interface Focus, 2014, 4 (3), 20130064

Abstract: A quantitative hypothesis for cancer genesis and progression—the endogenous molecular–cellular network hypothesis, intended to include both genetic and epigenetic causes of cancer—has been proposed recently. Using this hypothesis, here we address the molecular basis for maintaining normal liver and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), and the potential strategy to cure or relieve HCC. First, we elaborate the basic assumptions of the hypothesis and establish a core working network of HCC according to the hypothesis. Second, we quantify the working network by a nonlinear dynamical system. We show that the working network reproduces the main known features of normal liver and HCC at both the modular and molecular levels. Lastly, the validated working network reveals that (i) specific positive feedback loops are responsible for the maintenance of normal liver and HCC; (ii) inhibiting proliferation and inflammation-related positive feedback loops and simultaneously inducing a liver-specific positive feedback loop is predicated as a potential strategy to cure or relieve HCC; and (iii) the genesis and regression of HCC are asymmetric. In light of the characteristic properties of the nonlinear dynamical system, we demonstrate that positive feedback loops must exist as a simple and general molecular basis for the maintenance of heritable phenotypes, such as normal liver and HCC, and regulating the positive feedback loops directly or indirectly provides potential strategies to cure or relieve HCC.

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