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Computational study of the mechanism of Bcl-2 apoptotic switch


  • Tokár, Tomáš
  • Uličný, Jozef


In spite of attention devoted to molecular mechanisms of apoptosis, the details of functioning of one crucial component–the Bcl-2 apoptotic switch–are not completely understood. There are two competing mechanisms of its internal working—the indirect activation and the direct activation. In the absence of conclusive experimental data, we have used computational modeling to assess the properties of both mechanisms and their suitability to act as a biological switch. Since the two mechanisms form opposite poles of continuum of Bcl-2 molecular interaction models, we have constructed more general models including these two models as extreme cases. By studying the relationship between model parameters and the steady-state response we have found optimal interaction patterns which reproduce the behavior of the Bcl-2 apoptotic switch. Our results show, that stimulus–response ultrasensitivity is negatively affected by spontaneous activation of Bcl-2 effectors. We found that ultrasensitivity requires effectors activation, mediated by another subgroup of Bcl-2 proteins—activators. We have shown that the auto-activation of monomeric effector forms provides an ultrasensitivity enhancing feedback loop. Thorough robustness analysis revealed that the interaction pattern postulated in the direct activation hypothesis is able to conserve stimulus–response switching characteristics for wide range changes of its internal parameters. The robustness of the switch against the variation of the reaction parameter is strongly reduced for the intermediate hybrid model and even more for the indirect part of the models. Computer simulations of the more general model presented here suggest, that stimulus–response ultrasensitivity is an emergent property of the direct activation model that is unlikely to occur in the model of indirect activation. Introduction of indirect-model-specific interactions does not provide a better explanation of the Bcl-2 switch functionality compared to the direct model.

Suggested Citation

  • Tokár, Tomáš & Uličný, Jozef, 2012. "Computational study of the mechanism of Bcl-2 apoptotic switch," Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, vol. 391(23), pages 6212-6225.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:phsmap:v:391:y:2012:i:23:p:6212-6225
    DOI: 10.1016/j.physa.2012.07.006

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