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BMC Syst Biol. 2011 Oct 28;5:178. doi: 10.1186/1752-0509-5-178.

Time-resolved in silico modeling of fine-tuned cAMP signaling in platelets: feedback loops, titrated phosphorylations and pharmacological modulation.

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Department of Bioinformatics, Biocenter, University of Würzburg, Germany.



Hemostasis is a critical and active function of the blood mediated by platelets. Therefore, the prevention of pathological platelet aggregation is of great importance as well as of pharmaceutical and medical interest. Endogenous platelet inhibition is predominantly based on cyclic nucleotides (cAMP, cGMP) elevation and subsequent cyclic nucleotide-dependent protein kinase (PKA, PKG) activation. In turn, platelet phosphodiesterases (PDEs) and protein phosphatases counterbalance their activity. This main inhibitory pathway in human platelets is crucial for countervailing unwanted platelet activation. Consequently, the regulators of cyclic nucleotide signaling are of particular interest to pharmacology and therapeutics of atherothrombosis. Modeling of pharmacodynamics allows understanding this intricate signaling and supports the precise description of these pivotal targets for pharmacological modulation.


We modeled dynamically concentration-dependent responses of pathway effectors (inhibitors, activators, drug combinations) to cyclic nucleotide signaling as well as to downstream signaling events and verified resulting model predictions by experimental data. Experiments with various cAMP affecting compounds including anti-platelet drugs and their combinations revealed a high fidelity, fine-tuned cAMP signaling in platelets without cross-talk to the cGMP pathway. The model and the data provide evidence for two independent feedback loops: PKA, which is activated by elevated cAMP levels in the platelet, subsequently inhibits adenylyl cyclase (AC) but as well activates PDE3. By multi-experiment fitting, we established a comprehensive dynamic model with one predictive, optimized and validated set of parameters. Different pharmacological conditions (inhibition, activation, drug combinations, permanent and transient perturbations) are successfully tested and simulated, including statistical validation and sensitivity analysis. Downstream cyclic nucleotide signaling events target different phosphorylation sites for cAMP- and cGMP-dependent protein kinases (PKA, PKG) in the vasodilator-stimulated phosphoprotein (VASP). VASP phosphorylation as well as cAMP levels resulting from different drug strengths and combined stimulants were quantitatively modeled. These predictions were again experimentally validated. High sensitivity of the signaling pathway at low concentrations is involved in a fine-tuned balance as well as stable activation of this inhibitory cyclic nucleotide pathway.


On the basis of experimental data, literature mining and database screening we established a dynamic in silico model of cyclic nucleotide signaling and probed its signaling sensitivity. Thoroughly validated, it successfully predicts drug combination effects on platelet function, including synergism, antagonism and regulatory loops.

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