Modeling and analysis of the molecular basis of pain in sensory neurons

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Intracellular calcium dynamics are critical to cellular functions like pain transmission. Extracellular ATP plays an important role in modulating intracellular calcium levels by interacting with the P2 family of surface receptors. In this study, we developed a mechanistic mathematical model of ATP-induced P2 mediated calcium signaling in archetype sensory neurons. The model architecture, which described 90 species connected by 162 interactions, was formulated by aggregating disparate molecular modules from literature. Unlike previous models, only mass action kinetics were used to describe the rate of molecular interactions. Thus, the majority of the 252 unknown model parameters were either association, dissociation or catalytic rate constants. Model parameters were estimated from nine independent data sets taken from multiple laboratories. The training data consisted of both dynamic and steady-state measurements. However, because of the complexity of the calcium network, we were unable to estimate unique model parameters. Instead, we estimated a family or ensemble of probable parameter sets using a multi-objective thermal ensemble method. Each member of the ensemble met an error criterion and was located along or near the optimal trade-off surface between the individual training data sets. The model quantitatively reproduced experimental measurements from dorsal root ganglion neurons as a function of extracellular ATP forcing. Hypothesized architecture linking phosphoinositide regulation with P2X receptor activity explained the inhibition of P2X-mediated current flow by activated metabotropic P2Y receptors. Sensitivity analysis using individual and the whole system outputs suggested which molecular subsystems were most important following P2 activation. Taken together, modeling and analysis of ATP-induced P2 mediated calcium signaling generated qualitative insight into the critical interactions controlling ATP induced calcium dynamics. Understanding these critical interactions may prove useful for the design of the next generation of molecular pain management strategies.




Song, S. O., & Varner, J. (2009). Modeling and analysis of the molecular basis of pain in sensory neurons. PLoS ONE, 4(9).

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