Representative Publications



Wound induced Ca2+ wave propagates through a simple Release and Diffusion mechanism. Molecular Biology of the Cell. 28.11 (2017): 1457

L. Naomi Handly, and Roy Wollman

The heterogeneity in mammalian cells signaling response is largely a result of pre-existing cell-to-cell variability. It is unknown whether cell-to-cell variability rises from biochemical stochastic fluctuations or distinct cellular states. Here, we utilize calcium response to adenosine trisphosphate as a model for investigating the structure of heterogeneity within a population of cells and analyze whether distinct cellular response states coexist. We use a functional definition of cellular state that is based on a mechanistic dynamical systems model of calcium signaling. Using Bayesian parameter inference, we obtain high confidence parameter value distributions for several hundred cells, each fitted individually. Clustering the inferred parameter distributions revealed three major distinct cellular states within the population. The existence of distinct cellular states raises the possibility that the observed variability in response is a result of structured heterogeneity between cells. The inferred parameter distribution predicts, and experiments confirm that variability in IP3R response explains the majority of calcium heterogeneity. Our work shows how mechanistic models and single-cell parameter fitting can uncover hidden population structure and demonstrate the need for parameter inference at the single-cell level.

Distinct cellular states determine calcium signaling response. Molecular Systems Biology 12.12 (2016): 894

Jason Yao, Anna Pilko, and Roy Wollman

The heterogeneity in mammalian cells signaling response is largely a result of pre-existing cell-to-cell variability. It is unknown whether cell-to-cell variability rises from biochemical stochastic fluctuations or distinct cellular states. Here, we utilize calcium response to adenosine trisphosphate as a model for investigating the structure of heterogeneity within a population of cells and analyze whether distinct cellular response states coexist. We use a functional definition of cellular state that is based on a mechanistic dynamical systems model of calcium signaling. Using Bayesian parameter inference, we obtain high confidence parameter value distributions for several hundred cells, each fitted individually. Clustering the inferred parameter distributions revealed three major distinct cellular states within the population. The existence of distinct cellular states raises the possibility that the observed variability in response is a result of structured heterogeneity between cells. The inferred parameter distribution predicts, and experiments confirm that variability in IP3R response explains the majority of calcium heterogeneity. Our work shows how mechanistic models and single-cell parameter fitting can uncover hidden population structure and demonstrate the need for parameter inference at the single-cell level.

Paracrine communication maximizes cellular response fidelity in wound signaling. eLife 4 (2015): e09652.

L. Naomi Handly, Anna Pilko, and Roy Wollman

Population averaging due to paracrine communication can arbitrarily reduce cellular response variability. Yet, variability is ubiquitously observed, suggesting limits to paracrine averaging. It remains unclear whether and how biological systems may be affected by such limits of paracrine signaling. To address this question, we quantify the signal and noise of Ca2+ and ERK spatial gradients in response to an in vitro wound within a novel microfluidics-based device. We find that while paracrine communication reduces gradient noise, it also reduces the gradient magnitude. Accordingly we predict the existence of a maximum gradient signal to noise ratio. Direct in vitro measurement of paracrine communication verifies these predictions and reveals that cells utilize optimal levels of paracrine signaling to maximize the accuracy of gradient-based positional information. Our results demonstrate the limits of population averaging and show the inherent tradeoff in utilizing paracrine communication to regulate cellular response fidelity.

Accurate information transmission through dynamic biochemical signaling networks. Science 346.6215 (2014): 1370-1373.

Jangir Selimkhanov, Brooks Taylor, Jason Yao, Anna Pilko, John Albeck, Alexander Hoffmann, Lev Tsimring, and Roy Wollman

Stochasticity inherent to biochemical reactions (intrinsic noise) and variability in cellular states (extrinsic noise) degrade information transmitted through signaling networks. We analyzed the ability of temporal signal modulation—that is, dynamics—to reduce noise-induced information loss. In the extracellular signal–regulated kinase (ERK), calcium (Ca2+), and nuclear factor kappa-B (NF-κB) pathways, response dynamics resulted in significantly greater information transmission capacities compared to nondynamic responses. Theoretical analysis demonstrated that signaling dynamics has a key role in overcoming extrinsic noise. Experimental measurements of information transmission in the ERK network under varying signal-to-noise levels confirmed our predictions and showed that signaling dynamics mitigate, and can potentially eliminate, extrinsic noise–induced information loss. By curbing the information-degrading effects of cell-to-cell variability, dynamic responses substantially increase the accuracy of biochemical signaling networks.


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