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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Dynamical modeling of the cholesterol regulatory pathway with Boolean networks

Gwenael Kervizic* and Laurent Corcos

Author Affiliations

Inserm U613, Faculté de Médecine, Université de Bretagne Occidentale, 29238 Brest cedex, FRANCE

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BMC Systems Biology 2008, 2:99  doi:10.1186/1752-0509-2-99

Published: 24 November 2008



Qualitative dynamics of small gene regulatory networks have been studied in quite some details both with synchronous and asynchronous analysis. However, both methods have their drawbacks: synchronous analysis leads to spurious attractors and asynchronous analysis lacks computational efficiency, which is a problem to simulate large networks. We addressed this question through the analysis of a major biosynthesis pathway. Indeed the cholesterol synthesis pathway plays a pivotal role in dislypidemia and, ultimately, in cancer through intermediates such as mevalonate, farnesyl pyrophosphate and geranyl geranyl pyrophosphate, but no dynamic model of this pathway has been proposed until now.


We set up a computational framework to dynamically analyze large biological networks. This framework associates a classical and computationally efficient synchronous Boolean analysis with a newly introduced method based on Markov chains, which identifies spurious cycles among the results of the synchronous simulation. Based on this method, we present here the results of the analysis of the cholesterol biosynthesis pathway and its physiological regulation by the Sterol Response Element Binding Proteins (SREBPs), as well as the modeling of the action of statins, inhibitor drugs, on this pathway. The in silico experiments show the blockade of the cholesterol endogenous synthesis by statins and its regulation by SREPBs, in full agreement with the known biochemical features of the pathway.


We believe that the method described here to identify spurious cycles opens new routes to compute large and biologically relevant models, thanks to the computational efficiency of synchronous simulation.

Furthermore, to the best of our knowledge, we present here the first dynamic systems biology model of the human cholesterol pathway and several of its key regulatory control elements, hoping it would provide a good basis to perform in silico experiments and confront the resulting properties with published and experimental data. The model of the cholesterol pathway and its regulation, along with Boolean formulae used for simulation are available on our web site webcite. Graphical results of the simulation are also shown online. The SBML model is available in the BioModels database webcite with submission ID: MODEL0568648427.