Using dynamical stimuli to differentiate network topologies

27 Apr 2018

Sahand Jamal Rahi
Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne


Biology emerges from interactions between molecules, which are challenging to elucidate with current techniques. An orthogonal approach is to probe for 'response signatures' that identify specific circuit motifs. For example, bistability, hysteresis, or irreversibility are used to detect positive feedback loops. For adapting systems, such signatures are not known. Only two circuit motifs generate adaptation: negative feedback loops (NFLs) and incoherent feed-forward loops (IFFLs). On the basis of computational testing and mathematical proofs, we propose differential signatures: in response to oscillatory stimulation, NFLs but not IFFLs show refractory-period stabilization (robustness to changes in stimulus duration) or period skipping. Applying this approach to yeast, we identified the circuit dominating cell cycle timing. In Caenorhabditis elegans AWA neurons, which are crucial for chemotaxis, we uncovered a Ca2+ NFL leading to adaptation that would be difficult to find by other means. These response signatures allow direct access to the outlines of the wiring diagrams of adapting systems.

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