Section: Application Domains
Intracellular processes
(joint project with the InBio and IBIS inria teams and the MSC lab, UMR 7057)
Significant celltocell heterogeneity is ubiquitouslyobserved in isogenic cell populations. Cells respond differently to a same stimulation. For example, accounting for such heterogeneity is essential to quantitatively understand why some bacteria survive antibiotic treatments, some cancer cells escape druginduced suicide, stem cell do not differentiate, or some cells are not infected by pathogens.
The origins of the variability of biological processes and phenotypes are multifarious. Indeed, the observed heterogeneity of cell responses to a common stimulus can originate from differences in cell phenotypes (age, cell size, ribosome and transcription factor concentrations, etc), from spatiotemporal variations of the cell environments and from the intrinsic randomness of biochemical reactions. From systems and synthetic biology perspectives, understanding the exact contributions of these different sources of heterogeneity on the variability of cell responses is a central question.
The main ambition of this project is to propose a paradigm change in the quantitative modelling of cellular processes by shifting from meancell models to singlecell and population models. The main contribution of Xpop focuses on methodological developments for mixedeffects model identification in the context of growing cell populations [9].

Mixedeffects models usually consider an homogeneous population of independent individuals. This assumption does not hold when the population of cells (i.e. the statistical individuals) consists of several generations of dividing cells. We then need to account for inheritance of singlecell parameters in this population. More precisely, the problem is to attribute the new state and parameter values to newborn cells given (the current estimated values for) the mother.

The mixedeffects modelling framework corresponds to a strong assumption: differences between cells are static in time (ie, cellspecific parameters have fixed values). However, it is likely that for any given cell, ribosome levels slowly vary across time, since like any other protein, ribosomes are produced in a stochastic manner. We will therefore extend our modelling framework so as to account for the possible random fluctuations of parameter values in individual cells. Extensions based on stochastic differential equations will be investigated.

Identifiability is a fundamental prerequisite for model identification and is also closely connected to optimal experimental design. We will derive criteria for theoretical identifiability, in which different parameter values lead to nonidentical probability distributions, and for structural identifiability, which concerns the algebraic properties of the structural model, i.e. the ODE system. We will then address the problem of practical identifiability, whereby the model may be theoretically identifiable but the design of the experiment may make parameter estimation difficult and imprecise. An interesting problem is whether accounting for lineage effects can help practical identifiability of the parameters of the individuals in presence of measurement and biological noise.