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Open Access Methodology article

Equilibrium model selection: dTTP induced R1 dimerization

Tomas Radivoyevitch

Author Affiliations

Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Case Western Reserve University, 10900 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44106, USA

BMC Systems Biology 2008, 2:15  doi:10.1186/1752-0509-2-15

Published: 4 February 2008



Biochemical equilibria are usually modeled iteratively: given one or a few fitted models, if there is a lack of fit or over fitting, a new model with additional or fewer parameters is then fitted, and the process is repeated. The problem with this approach is that different analysts can propose and select different models and thus extract different binding parameter estimates from the same data. An alternative is to first generate a comprehensive standardized list of plausible models, and to then fit them exhaustively, or semi-exhaustively.


A framework is presented in which equilibriums are modeled as pairs (g, h) where g = 0 maps total reactant concentrations (system inputs) into free reactant concentrations (system states) which h then maps into expected values of measurements (system outputs). By letting dissociation constants Kd be either freely estimated, infinity, zero, or equal to other Kd, and by letting undamaged protein fractions be either freely estimated or 1, many g models are formed. A standard space of g models for ligand-induced protein dimerization equilibria is given. Coupled to an h model, the resulting (g, h) were fitted to dTTP induced R1 dimerization data (R1 is the large subunit of ribonucleotide reductase). Models with the fewest parameters were fitted first. Thereafter, upon fitting a batch, the next batch of models (with one more parameter) was fitted only if the current batch yielded a model that was better (based on the Akaike Information Criterion) than the best model in the previous batch (with one less parameter). Within batches models were fitted in parallel. This semi-exhaustive approach yielded the same best models as an exhaustive model space fit, but in approximately one-fifth the time.


Comprehensive model space based biochemical equilibrium model selection methods are realizable. Their significance to systems biology as mappings of data into mathematical models warrants their development.