Delay-dependent Stability of Genetic Regulatory Networks

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Johan Ugander
Masters Thesis, Lund University

Genetic regulatory networks are biochemical reaction systems, consisting of a network of interacting genes and associated proteins. The dynamics of genetic regulatory networks contain many complex facets that require careful consideration during the modeling process. The classical modeling approach involves studying systems of ordinary differential equations (ODEs) that model biochemical reactions in a deterministic, continuous, and instantaneous fashion. In reality, the dynamics of these systems are stochastic, discrete, and widely delayed. The first two complications are often successfully addressed by modeling regulatory networks using the Gillespie stochastic simulation algorithm (SSA), while the delayed behavior of biochemical events such as transcription and translation are often ignored due to their mathematically difficult nature. We develop techniques based on delay-differential equations (DDEs) and the delayed Gillespie SSA to study the effects of delays, in both continuous deterministic and discrete stochastic settings. Our analysis applies techniques from Floquet theory and advanced numerical analysis within the context of delay-differential equations, and we are able to derive stability sensitivities for biochemical switches and oscillators across the constituent pathways, showing which pathways in the regulatory networks improve or worsen the stability of the system attractors. These delay sensitivities can be far from trivial, and we offer a computational framework validated across multiple levels of modeling fidelity. This work suggests that delays may play an important and previously overlooked role in providing robust dynamical behavior for certain genetic regulatory networks, and perhaps more importantly, may offer an accessible tuning parameter for robust bioengineering.