Network Representations of Immune System Complexity

Jan. 27, 2015


The mammalian immune system is a dynamic multiscale system composed of a hierarchically organized set of molecular, cellular, and organismal networks that act in concert to promote effective host defense. These networks range from those involving gene regulatory and protein–protein interactions underlying intracellular signaling pathways and single-cell responses to increasingly complex networks of in vivo cellular interaction, positioning, and migration that determine the overall immune response of an organism. Immunity is thus not the product of simple signaling events but rather nonlinear behaviors arising from dynamic, feedback-regulated interactions among many components. One of the major goals of systems immunology is to quantitatively measure these complex multiscale spatial and temporal interactions, permitting development of computational models that can be used to predict responses to perturbation. Recent technological advances permit collection of comprehensive datasets at multiple molecular and cellular levels, while advances in network biology support representation of the relationships of components at each level as physical or functional interaction networks. The latter facilitate effective visualization of patterns and recognition of emergent properties arising from the many interactions of genes, molecules, and cells of the immune system. We illustrate the power of integrating ‘omics’ and network modeling approaches for unbiased reconstruction of signaling and transcriptional networks with a focus on applications involving the innate immune system. We further discuss future possibilities for reconstruction of increasingly complex cellular- and organism-level networks and development of sophisticated computational tools for prediction of emergent immune behavior arising from the concerted action of these networks.

Published 2015. This article is a U.S. Government work and is in the public domain in the USA.

Title: Network Representations of Immune System Complexity
Journal: WIREs Systems Biology and Medicine
Authors: Naeha Subramanian, Parizad Torabi-Parizi, Rachel A. Gottschalk, Ronald N. Germain and Bhaskar Dutta