Open Access Open Badges Research article

Modeling the NF-κB mediated inflammatory response predicts cytokine waves in tissue

Pernille Yde, Benedicte Mengel, Mogens H Jensen, Sandeep Krishna and Ala Trusina*

Author Affiliations

Niels Bohr Institute, Blegdamsvej 17, DK 2100, Copenhagen, Denmark

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BMC Systems Biology 2011, 5:115  doi:10.1186/1752-0509-5-115

Published: 19 July 2011



Waves propagating in "excitable media" is a reliable way to transmit signals in space. A fascinating example where living cells comprise such a medium is Dictyostelium D. which propagates waves of chemoattractant to attract distant cells. While neutrophils chemotax in a similar fashion as Dictyostelium D., it is unclear if chemoattractant waves exist in mammalian tissues and what mechanisms could propagate them.


We propose that chemoattractant cytokine waves may naturally develop as a result of NF-κB response. Using a heuristic mathematical model of NF-κB-like circuits coupled in space we show that the known characteristics of NF-κB response favor cytokine waves.


While the propagating wave of cytokines is generally beneficial for inflammation resolution, our model predicts that there exist special conditions that can cause chronic inflammation and re-occurrence of acute inflammatory response.