A properly functioning immune system is vital for an organism’s wellbeing. Immune tolerance is a critical feature of the immune system that allows immune cells to mount effective responses against exogenous pathogens such as viruses and bacteria, while preventing attack to self-tissues. Activation-induced cell death (AICD) in T lymphocytes, in which repeated stimulations of the T-cell receptor (TCR) lead to activation and then apoptosis of T cells, is a major mechanism for T cell homeostasis and helps maintain peripheral immune tolerance. Defects in AICD can lead to development of autoimmune diseases. Despite its importance, the regulatory mechanisms that underlie AICD remain poorly understood, particularly at an integrative network level. Here, we develop a dynamic multi-pathway model of the integrated TCR signalling network and perform model-based analysis to characterize the network-level properties of AICD. Model simulation and analysis show that amplified activation of the transcriptional factor NFAT in response to repeated TCR stimulations, a phenomenon central to AICD, is tightly modulated by a coupled positive-negative feedback mechanism. NFAT amplification is predominantly enabled by a positive feedback self-regulated by NFAT, while opposed by a NFAT-induced negative feedback via Carabin. Furthermore, model analysis predicts an optimal therapeutic window for drugs that help minimize proliferation while maximize AICD of T cells. Overall, our study provides a comprehensive mathematical model of TCR signalling and model-based analysis offers new network-level insights into the regulation of activation-induced cell death in T cells.
- computational models
- systems biology