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Open Access Research article

Computational study of noise in a large signal transduction network

Jukka Intosalmi12*, Tiina Manninen2, Keijo Ruohonen1 and Marja-Leena Linne2*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Mathematics, Tampere University of Technology, P.O. Box 553, 33101 Tampere, Finland

2 Department of Signal Processing, Tampere University of Technology, P.O. Box 553, 33101 Tampere, Finland

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BMC Bioinformatics 2011, 12:252  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-12-252

Published: 21 June 2011

Abstract

Background

Biochemical systems are inherently noisy due to the discrete reaction events that occur in a random manner. Although noise is often perceived as a disturbing factor, the system might actually benefit from it. In order to understand the role of noise better, its quality must be studied in a quantitative manner. Computational analysis and modeling play an essential role in this demanding endeavor.

Results

We implemented a large nonlinear signal transduction network combining protein kinase C, mitogen-activated protein kinase, phospholipase A2, and β isoform of phospholipase C networks. We simulated the network in 300 different cellular volumes using the exact Gillespie stochastic simulation algorithm and analyzed the results in both the time and frequency domain. In order to perform simulations in a reasonable time, we used modern parallel computing techniques. The analysis revealed that time and frequency domain characteristics depend on the system volume. The simulation results also indicated that there are several kinds of noise processes in the network, all of them representing different kinds of low-frequency fluctuations. In the simulations, the power of noise decreased on all frequencies when the system volume was increased.

Conclusions

We concluded that basic frequency domain techniques can be applied to the analysis of simulation results produced by the Gillespie stochastic simulation algorithm. This approach is suited not only to the study of fluctuations but also to the study of pure noise processes. Noise seems to have an important role in biochemical systems and its properties can be numerically studied by simulating the reacting system in different cellular volumes. Parallel computing techniques make it possible to run massive simulations in hundreds of volumes and, as a result, accurate statistics can be obtained from computational studies.