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Fiete Haack, Heiko Lemcke, Roland Ewald, Tareck Rharass, and Adelinde M Uhrmacher (2015)

Spatio-temporal model of endogenous ROS and raft-dependent Wnt/beta-catenin signaling driving cell fate commitment in human neural progenitor cells

PLOS Computational Biology, 11(3):e1004106.

Canonical WNT/β-catenin signaling is a central pathway in embryonic development, but it is also connected to a number of cancers and developmental disorders. Here we apply a combined in-vitro and in-silico approach to investigate the spatio-temporal regulation of WNT/β-catenin signaling during the early neural differentiation process of human neural progenitors cells (hNPCs), which form a new prospect for replacement therapies in the context of neurodegenerative diseases. Experimental measurements indicate a second signal mechanism, in addition to canonical WNT signaling, being involved in the regulation of nuclear β-catenin levels during the cell fate commitment phase of neural differentiation. We find that the biphasic activation of β-catenin signaling observed experimentally can only be explained through a model that combines Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) and raft dependent WNT/β-catenin signaling. Accordingly after initiation of differentiation endogenous ROS activates DVL in a redox-dependent manner leading to a transient activation of down-stream β-catenin signaling, followed by continuous auto/paracrine WNT signaling, which crucially depends on lipid rafts. Our simulation studies further illustrate the elaborate spatio-temporal regulation of DVL, which, depending on its concentration and localization, may either act as direct inducer of the transient ROS/β-catenin signal or as amplifier during continuous auto-/parcrine WNT/β-catenin signaling. In addition we provide the first stochastic computational model of WNT/β-catenin signaling that combines membrane-related and intracellular processes, including lipid rafts/receptor dynamics as well as WNT- and ROS-dependent β-catenin activation. The model’s predictive ability is demonstrated under a wide range of varying conditions for in-vitro and in-silico reference data sets. Our in-silico approach is realized in a multi-level rule-based language, that facilitates the extension and modification of the model. Thus, our results provide both new insights and means to further our understanding of canonical WNT/β-catenin signaling and the role of ROS as intracellular signaling mediator.

doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1004106

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