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Open Access Research article

Quantitative model for inferring dynamic regulation of the tumour suppressor gene p53

Junbai Wang1 and Tianhai Tian23*

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Pathology, The Norwegian Radium Hospital, Rikshospitalet University Hospital, Montebello 0310 Oslo, Norway

2 School of Mathematical Sciences, Monash University, Melbourne, Vic 3800, Australia

3 Department of Mathematics, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QW, UK

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BMC Bioinformatics 2010, 11:36  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-11-36

Published: 19 January 2010



The availability of various "omics" datasets creates a prospect of performing the study of genome-wide genetic regulatory networks. However, one of the major challenges of using mathematical models to infer genetic regulation from microarray datasets is the lack of information for protein concentrations and activities. Most of the previous researches were based on an assumption that the mRNA levels of a gene are consistent with its protein activities, though it is not always the case. Therefore, a more sophisticated modelling framework together with the corresponding inference methods is needed to accurately estimate genetic regulation from "omics" datasets.


This work developed a novel approach, which is based on a nonlinear mathematical model, to infer genetic regulation from microarray gene expression data. By using the p53 network as a test system, we used the nonlinear model to estimate the activities of transcription factor (TF) p53 from the expression levels of its target genes, and to identify the activation/inhibition status of p53 to its target genes. The predicted top 317 putative p53 target genes were supported by DNA sequence analysis. A comparison between our prediction and the other published predictions of p53 targets suggests that most of putative p53 targets may share a common depleted or enriched sequence signal on their upstream non-coding region.


The proposed quantitative model can not only be used to infer the regulatory relationship between TF and its down-stream genes, but also be applied to estimate the protein activities of TF from the expression levels of its target genes.