Defining informative priors for ensemble modeling in systems biology

Areti Tsigkinopoulou, Aliah Hawari, Megan Uttley, Rainer Breitling

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Ensemble modeling in molecular systems biology requires the reproducible translation of kinetic parameter data into informative probability distributions (priors), as well as approaches that sample parameters from these distributions without violating the thermodynamic consistency of the overall model. Although a number of pioneering frameworks for ensemble modeling have been published, the issue of generating informative priors has not yet been addressed. Here, we present a protocol that aims to fill this gap. This protocol discusses the collection of parameter values from a diverse range of sources (literature, databases and experiments), assessment of their plausibility, and creation of log-normal probability distributions that can be used as informative priors in ensemble modeling. Furthermore, the protocol enables sampling from the generated distributions while maintaining thermodynamic consistency. Once all parameter values have been retrieved from literature and databases, the protocol can be implemented within ~5–10 min per parameter. The aim of this protocol is to facilitate the design and use of informative distributions for ensemble modeling, especially in fields such as synthetic biology and systems medicine.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2643-2663
Number of pages21
JournalNature protocols
Issue number11
Early online date23 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2018


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