Indexed on: 06 Apr '07Published on: 06 Apr '07Published in: BMC Systems Biology
The ubiquitin-proteasome system is responsible for homeostatic degradation of intact protein substrates as well as the elimination of damaged or misfolded proteins that might otherwise aggregate. During ageing there is a decline in proteasome activity and an increase in aggregated proteins. Many neurodegenerative diseases are characterised by the presence of distinctive ubiquitin-positive inclusion bodies in affected regions of the brain. These inclusions consist of insoluble, unfolded, ubiquitinated polypeptides that fail to be targeted and degraded by the proteasome. We are using a systems biology approach to try and determine the primary event in the decline in proteolytic capacity with age and whether there is in fact a vicious cycle of inhibition, with accumulating aggregates further inhibiting proteolysis, prompting accumulation of aggregates and so on. A stochastic model of the ubiquitin-proteasome system has been developed using the Systems Biology Mark-up Language (SBML). Simulations are carried out on the BASIS (Biology of Ageing e-Science Integration and Simulation) system and the model output is compared to experimental data wherein levels of ubiquitin and ubiquitinated substrates are monitored in cultured cells under various conditions. The model can be used to predict the effects of different experimental procedures such as inhibition of the proteasome or shutting down the enzyme cascade responsible for ubiquitin conjugation.The model output shows good agreement with experimental data under a number of different conditions. However, our model predicts that monomeric ubiquitin pools are always depleted under conditions of proteasome inhibition, whereas experimental data show that monomeric pools were depleted in IMR-90 cells but not in ts20 cells, suggesting that cell lines vary in their ability to replenish ubiquitin pools and there is the need to incorporate ubiquitin turnover into the model. Sensitivity analysis of the model revealed which parameters have an important effect on protein turnover and aggregation kinetics.We have developed a model of the ubiquitin-proteasome system using an iterative approach of model building and validation against experimental data. Using SBML to encode the model ensures that it can be easily modified and extended as more data become available. Important aspects to be included in subsequent models are details of ubiquitin turnover, models of autophagy, the inclusion of a pool of short-lived proteins and further details of the aggregation process.