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PLoS Computational Biology

Qian Qin, Jianxing Feng
Understanding the cell-specific binding patterns of transcription factors (TFs) is fundamental to studying gene regulatory networks in biological systems, for which ChIP-seq not only provides valuable data but is also considered as the gold standard. Despite tremendous efforts from the scientific community to conduct TF ChIP-seq experiments, the available data represent only a limited percentage of ChIP-seq experiments, considering all possible combinations of TFs and cell lines. In this study, we demonstrate a method for accurately predicting cell-specific TF binding for TF-cell line combinations based on only a small fraction (4%) of the combinations using available ChIP-seq data...
February 24, 2017: PLoS Computational Biology
Sean M Gibbons, Sean M Kearney, Chris S Smillie, Eric J Alm
The gut microbiome is a dynamic system that changes with host development, health, behavior, diet, and microbe-microbe interactions. Prior work on gut microbial time series has largely focused on autoregressive models (e.g. Lotka-Volterra). However, we show that most of the variance in microbial time series is non-autoregressive. In addition, we show how community state-clustering is flawed when it comes to characterizing within-host dynamics and that more continuous methods are required. Most organisms exhibited stable, mean-reverting behavior suggestive of fixed carrying capacities and abundant taxa were largely shared across individuals...
February 21, 2017: PLoS Computational Biology
Zachary S L Foster, Thomas J Sharpton, Niklaus J Grünwald
Community-level data, the type generated by an increasing number of metabarcoding studies, is often graphed as stacked bar charts or pie graphs that use color to represent taxa. These graph types do not convey the hierarchical structure of taxonomic classifications and are limited by the use of color for categories. As an alternative, we developed metacoder, an R package for easily parsing, manipulating, and graphing publication-ready plots of hierarchical data. Metacoder includes a dynamic and flexible function that can parse most text-based formats that contain taxonomic classifications, taxon names, taxon identifiers, or sequence identifiers...
February 21, 2017: PLoS Computational Biology
Dongjun Chung, Hang J Kim, Hongyu Zhao
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified tens of thousands of genetic variants associated with hundreds of phenotypes and diseases, which have provided clinical and medical benefits to patients with novel biomarkers and therapeutic targets. However, identification of risk variants associated with complex diseases remains challenging as they are often affected by many genetic variants with small or moderate effects. There has been accumulating evidence suggesting that different complex traits share common risk basis, namely pleiotropy...
February 17, 2017: PLoS Computational Biology
Vinal Lakhani, Timothy C Elston
The ability to detect a chemical gradient is fundamental to many cellular processes. In multicellular organisms gradient sensing plays an important role in many physiological processes such as wound healing and development. Unicellular organisms use gradient sensing to move (chemotaxis) or grow (chemotropism) towards a favorable environment. Some cells are capable of detecting extremely shallow gradients, even in the presence of significant molecular-level noise. For example, yeast have been reported to detect pheromone gradients as shallow as 0...
February 16, 2017: PLoS Computational Biology
Franca Schmid, Philbert S Tsai, David Kleinfeld, Patrick Jenny, Bruno Weber
A better knowledge of the flow and pressure distribution in realistic microvascular networks is needed for improving our understanding of neurovascular coupling mechanisms and the related measurement techniques. Here, numerical simulations with discrete tracking of red blood cells (RBCs) are performed in three realistic microvascular networks from the mouse cerebral cortex. Our analysis is based on trajectories of individual RBCs and focuses on layer-specific flow phenomena until a cortical depth of 1 mm. The individual RBC trajectories reveal that in the capillary bed RBCs preferentially move in plane...
February 14, 2017: PLoS Computational Biology
Mark P Little, Jolyon H Hendry
There is compelling biological data to suggest that cancer arises from a series of mutations in single target cells, resulting in defects in cell renewal and differentiation processes which lead to malignancy. Because much mutagenic damage is expressed following cell division, more-rapidly renewing tissues could be at higher risk because of the larger number of cell replications. Cairns suggested that renewing tissues may reduce cancer risk by partitioning the dividing cell populations into lineages comprising infrequently-dividing long-lived stem cells and frequently-dividing short-lived daughter transit cells...
February 14, 2017: PLoS Computational Biology
Alexander Miguel Monzon, Diego Javier Zea, María Silvina Fornasari, Tadeo E Saldaño, Sebastian Fernandez-Alberti, Silvio C E Tosatto, Gustavo Parisi
Protein motions are a key feature to understand biological function. Recently, a large-scale analysis of protein conformational diversity showed a positively skewed distribution with a peak at 0.5 Å C-alpha root-mean-square-deviation (RMSD). To understand this distribution in terms of structure-function relationships, we studied a well curated and large dataset of ~5,000 proteins with experimentally determined conformational diversity. We searched for global behaviour patterns studying how structure-based features change among the available conformer population for each protein...
February 13, 2017: PLoS Computational Biology
Didac Santesmasses, Marco Mariotti, Roderic Guigó
Selenocysteine (Sec) is known as the 21st amino acid, a cysteine analogue with selenium replacing sulphur. Sec is inserted co-translationally in a small fraction of proteins called selenoproteins. In selenoprotein genes, the Sec specific tRNA (tRNASec) drives the recoding of highly specific UGA codons from stop signals to Sec. Although found in organisms from the three domains of life, Sec is not universal. Many species are completely devoid of selenoprotein genes and lack the ability to synthesize Sec. Since tRNASec is a key component in selenoprotein biosynthesis, its efficient identification in genomes is instrumental to characterize the utilization of Sec across lineages...
February 13, 2017: PLoS Computational Biology
Dong-Ping Yang, Hai-Jun Zhou, Changsong Zhou
The brain is highly energy consuming, therefore is under strong selective pressure to achieve cost-efficiency in both cortical connectivities and activities. However, cost-efficiency as a design principle for cortical activities has been rarely studied. Especially it is not clear how cost-efficiency is related to ubiquitously observed multi-scale properties: irregular firing, oscillations and neuronal avalanches. Here we demonstrate that these prominent properties can be simultaneously observed in a generic, biologically plausible neural circuit model that captures excitation-inhibition balance and realistic dynamics of synaptic conductance...
February 13, 2017: PLoS Computational Biology
James M Osborne, Alexander G Fletcher, Joe M Pitt-Francis, Philip K Maini, David J Gavaghan
The coordinated behaviour of populations of cells plays a central role in tissue growth and renewal. Cells react to their microenvironment by modulating processes such as movement, growth and proliferation, and signalling. Alongside experimental studies, computational models offer a useful means by which to investigate these processes. To this end a variety of cell-based modelling approaches have been developed, ranging from lattice-based cellular automata to lattice-free models that treat cells as point-like particles or extended shapes...
February 13, 2017: PLoS Computational Biology
Franziska Oschmann, Konstantin Mergenthaler, Evelyn Jungnickel, Klaus Obermayer
Astrocytes integrate and process synaptic information and exhibit calcium (Ca2+) signals in response to incoming information from neighboring synapses. The generation of Ca2+ signals is mostly attributed to Ca2+ release from internal Ca2+ stores evoked by an elevated metabotropic glutamate receptor (mGluR) activity. Different experimental results associated the generation of Ca2+ signals to the activity of the glutamate transporter (GluT). The GluT itself does not influence the intracellular Ca2+ concentration, but it indirectly activates Ca2+ entry over the membrane...
February 13, 2017: PLoS Computational Biology
Miguel Fribourg, Diomedes E Logothetis, Javier González-Maeso, Stuart C Sealfon, Belén Galocha-Iragüen, Fernando Las-Heras Andrés, Vladimir Brezina
Overall cellular responses to biologically-relevant stimuli are mediated by networks of simpler lower-level processes. Although information about some of these processes can now be obtained by visualizing and recording events at the molecular level, this is still possible only in especially favorable cases. Therefore the development of methods to extract the dynamics and relationships between the different lower-level (microscopic) processes from the overall (macroscopic) response remains a crucial challenge in the understanding of many aspects of physiology...
February 13, 2017: PLoS Computational Biology
Pierre Millard, Kieran Smallbone, Pedro Mendes
The metabolism of microorganisms is regulated through two main mechanisms: changes of enzyme capacities as a consequence of gene expression modulation ("hierarchical control") and changes of enzyme activities through metabolite-enzyme interactions. An increasing body of evidence indicates that hierarchical control is insufficient to explain metabolic behaviors, but the system-wide impact of metabolic regulation remains largely uncharacterized. To clarify its role, we developed and validated a detailed kinetic model of Escherichia coli central metabolism that links growth to environment...
February 10, 2017: PLoS Computational Biology
Vivek Charu, Scott Zeger, Julia Gog, Ottar N Bjørnstad, Stephen Kissler, Lone Simonsen, Bryan T Grenfell, Cécile Viboud
Seasonal influenza epidemics offer unique opportunities to study the invasion and re-invasion waves of a pathogen in a partially immune population. Detailed patterns of spread remain elusive, however, due to lack of granular disease data. Here we model high-volume city-level medical claims data and human mobility proxies to explore the drivers of influenza spread in the US during 2002-2010. Although the speed and pathways of spread varied across seasons, seven of eight epidemics likely originated in the Southern US...
February 10, 2017: PLoS Computational Biology
Felipe Gerhard, Moritz Deger, Wilson Truccolo
Point process generalized linear models (PP-GLMs) provide an important statistical framework for modeling spiking activity in single-neurons and neuronal networks. Stochastic stability is essential when sampling from these models, as done in computational neuroscience to analyze statistical properties of neuronal dynamics and in neuro-engineering to implement closed-loop applications. Here we show, however, that despite passing common goodness-of-fit tests, PP-GLMs estimated from data are often unstable, leading to divergent firing rates...
February 2017: PLoS Computational Biology
Arno Klein, Satrajit S Ghosh, Forrest S Bao, Joachim Giard, Yrjö Häme, Eliezer Stavsky, Noah Lee, Brian Rossa, Martin Reuter, Elias Chaibub Neto, Anisha Keshavan
Mindboggle ( is an open source brain morphometry platform that takes in preprocessed T1-weighted MRI data and outputs volume, surface, and tabular data containing label, feature, and shape information for further analysis. In this article, we document the software and demonstrate its use in studies of shape variation in healthy and diseased humans. The number of different shape measures and the size of the populations make this the largest and most detailed shape analysis of human brains ever conducted...
February 2017: PLoS Computational Biology
Alice R Walker, Pavel Silvestrov, Tina A Müller, Robert H Podolsky, Gregory Dyson, Robert P Hausinger, Gerardo Andrés Cisneros
The search for prostate cancer biomarkers has received increased attention and several DNA repair related enzymes have been linked to this dysfunction. Here we report a targeted search for single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and functional impact characterization of human ALKBH family dioxygenases related to prostate cancer. Our results uncovered a SNP of ALKBH7, rs7540, which is associated with prostate cancer disease in a statistically significantly manner in two separate cohorts, and maintained in African American men...
February 2017: PLoS Computational Biology
Heiner Stuke, Hannes Stuke, Veith Andreas Weilnhammer, Katharina Schmack
[This corrects the article DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1005328.].
February 2017: PLoS Computational Biology
Jan Ewald, Martin Bartl, Thomas Dandekar, Christoph Kaleta
A precise and rapid adjustment of fluxes through metabolic pathways is crucial for organisms to prevail in changing environmental conditions. Based on this reasoning, many guiding principles that govern the evolution of metabolic networks and their regulation have been uncovered. To this end, methods from dynamic optimization are ideally suited since they allow to uncover optimality principles behind the regulation of metabolic networks. We used dynamic optimization to investigate the influence of toxic intermediates in connection with the efficiency of enzymes on the regulation of a linear metabolic pathway...
February 2017: PLoS Computational Biology
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