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Dobay, Maria Pamela; Dobay, Akos; Bantang, Johnrob and Mendoza, Eduardo (2011): How many trimers? Modeling influenza virus fusion yields a minimum aggregate size of six trimers, three of which are fusogenic. In: Molecular BioSystems, Vol. 7, No. 10: pp. 2741-2749 [PDF, 4MB]

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Conflicting reports in leading journals have indicated the minimum number of influenza hemagglutinin (HA) trimers required for fusion to be between one and eight. Interestingly, the data in these reports are either almost identical, or can be transformed to be directly comparable. Different statistical or phenomenological models, however, were used to analyze these data, resulting in the varied interpretations. In an attempt to resolve this contradiction, we use PABM, a brane calculus we recently introduced, enabling an algorithmic systems biology approach that allows the problem to be modeled in a manner following a biological logic. Since a scalable PABM executor is still under development, we sufficiently simplified the fusion model and analyzed it using the model checker, PRISM. We validated the model against older HA-expressing cell-to-cell fusion data using the same parameters with the exception of three, namely HA and sialic acid (SA) surface densities and the aggregation rate, which were expected to be different as a result of the difference in the experimental setup. Results are consistent with the interpretation that a minimum aggregate size of six HA trimers, of which three undergo a conformational change to become fusogenic, is required for fusion. Of these three, two are free, while one is bound. Finally, we determined the effects of varying the SA surface density and showed that only a limited range of densities permit fusion. Our results demonstrate the potential of modeling in providing more precise interpretations of data.

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