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PLoS Comput Biol. 2012;8(12):e1002815. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002815. Epub 2012 Dec 20.

Parameter identifiability and sensitivity analysis predict targets for enhancement of STAT1 activity in pancreatic cancer and stellate cells.

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Department of Systems Biology and Bioinformatics, University of Rostock, Rostock, Germany.


The present work exemplifies how parameter identifiability analysis can be used to gain insights into differences in experimental systems and how uncertainty in parameter estimates can be handled. The case study, presented here, investigates interferon-gamma (IFNγ) induced STAT1 signalling in two cell types that play a key role in pancreatic cancer development: pancreatic stellate and cancer cells. IFNγ inhibits the growth for both types of cells and may be prototypic of agents that simultaneously hit cancer and stroma cells. We combined time-course experiments with mathematical modelling to focus on the common situation in which variations between profiles of experimental time series, from different cell types, are observed. To understand how biochemical reactions are causing the observed variations, we performed a parameter identifiability analysis. We successfully identified reactions that differ in pancreatic stellate cells and cancer cells, by comparing confidence intervals of parameter value estimates and the variability of model trajectories. Our analysis shows that useful information can also be obtained from nonidentifiable parameters. For the prediction of potential therapeutic targets we studied the consequences of uncertainty in the values of identifiable and nonidentifiable parameters. Interestingly, the sensitivity of model variables is robust against parameter variations and against differences between IFNγ induced STAT1 signalling in pancreatic stellate and cancer cells. This provides the basis for a prediction of therapeutic targets that are valid for both cell types.

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