A multi-approach and multi-scale platform to model CD4+ T cells responding to infections

Kenneth Y. Wertheim, Bhanwar Lal Puniy, I. Alyssa La Fleur, Ab Rauf Shah, Matteo Barberis, Tomáš Helikar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Immune responses rely on a complex adaptive system in which the body and infections interact at multiple scales and in different compartments. We developed a modular model of CD4+ T cells, which uses four modeling approaches to integrate processes at three spatial scales in different tissues. In each cell, signal transduction and gene regulation are described by a logical model, metabolism by constraint-based models. Cell population dynamics are described by an agent-based model and systemic cytokine concentrations by ordinary differential equations. A Monte Carlo simulation algorithm allows information to flow efficiently between the four modules by separating the time scales. Such modularity improves computational performance and versatility and facilitates data integration. We validated our technology by reproducing known experimental results, including differentiation patterns of CD4+ T cells triggered by different combinations of cytokines, metabolic regulation by IL2 in these cells, and their response to influenza infection. In doing so, we added multi-scale insights to single-scale studies and demonstrated its predictive power by discovering switch-like and oscillatory behaviors of CD4+ T cells that arise from nonlinear dynamics interwoven across three scales. We identified the inflamed lymph node's ability to retain naive CD4+ T cells as a key mechanism in generating these emergent behaviors. We envision our model and the generic framework encompassing it to serve as a tool for understanding cellular and molecular immunological problems through the lens of systems immunology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1009209
JournalPLoS computational biology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Ecology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics


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