Title page for ETD etd-10142009-122741


Type of Document Dissertation
Author Pokrzywa, Revonda Maria
Author's Email Address rmpokrzy@vt.edu
URN etd-10142009-122741
Title Systems Biology in an Imperfect World: Modeling Biological Systems with Incomplete Information
Degree PhD
Department Genetics, Bioinformatics, and Computational Biology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Mendes, Pedro J. P. Committee Chair
Hoeschele, Ina Committee Member
Laubenbacher, Reinhard C. Committee Member
Murali, T. M. Committee Member
Shulaev, Vladimir Committee Member
Keywords
  • Systems Biology
  • Metabolomics
  • Biological Networks
Date of Defense 2009-10-08
Availability restricted
Abstract
One of the primary goals of systems biology is to understand the complex underlying

network of biochemical interactions which allow an organism to respond to

environmental stimuli. Models of these biological interactions serve as a tool to both

codify current understanding of these interactions as well as a starting point for scientific

discovery. Due to the massive amount of information which is required for this modeling

process, systems biology studies must often attempt to construct models which reflect the

whole of the system while having access to only partial information. In some cases, the

missing information will not have a confounding effect on the accuracy of the model. In

other cases, there is the danger that this missing information will make the model useless.

The focus of this thesis is to study the effect which missing information has on systems

level studies within several different contexts. Specifically, we study two contexts : when

the missing information takes the role of incomplete molecular interaction network

knowledge and when it takes the role of unknown kinetic rate laws. These studies yield

interesting results. We show that when metabolism is isolated from gene expression, the

effects are not limited to those reactions under strong control by gene expression. Thus,

incomplete understanding of molecular interaction networks may have unexpected effects

on the resulting analysis. We also reveal that under the conditions of the current study,

mass action was shown to be the superior substitute when the true rate equations for a

biological system are unknown.

In addition to studying the effect of missing information in the aforementioned contexts,

we propose a method for limiting the parameter search space of biochemical systems.

Even in ideal scenarios where both the molecular interaction network and the relevant

kinetic rate equations are known, obtaining appropriate estimates for the unknown system

parameters can be challenging. By employing a method which limits the parameter

search space, we are able to acquire estimates for parameter values which are much

closer to the true values than those which could be obtained otherwise.

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