Mouse Hair Cycle Expression Dynamics Modeled as Coupled Mesenchymal and Epithelial Oscillators
PLoS Computational Biology
The hair cycle is a dynamic process where follicles repeatedly move through phases of growth, retraction, and relative quiescence. This process is an example of temporal and spatial biological complexity. Understanding of the hair cycle and its regulation would shed light on many other complex systems relevant to biological and medical research. Currently, a systematic characterization of gene expression and summarization within the context of a mathematical model is not yet available. Given
... cyclic nature of the hair cycle, we felt it was important to consider a subset of genes with periodic expression. To this end, we combined several mathematical approaches with high-throughput, whole mouse skin, mRNA expression data to characterize aspects of the dynamics and the possible cell populations corresponding to potentially periodic patterns. In particular two gene clusters, demonstrating properties of out-of-phase synchronized expression, were identified. A mean field, phase coupled oscillator model was shown to quantitatively recapitulate the synchronization observed in the data. Furthermore, we found only one configuration of positive-negative coupling to be dynamically stable, which provided insight on general features of the regulation. Subsequent bifurcation analysis was able to identify and describe alternate states based on perturbation of system parameters. A 2-population mixture model and cell type enrichment was used to associate the two gene clusters to features of background mesenchymal populations and rapidly expanding follicular epithelial cells. Distinct timing and localization of expression was also shown by RNA and protein imaging for representative genes. Taken together, the evidence suggests that synchronization between expanding epithelial and background mesenchymal cells may be maintained, in part, by inhibitory regulation, and potential mediators of this regulation were identified. Furthermore, the model suggests that impairing this negative regulation will drive a bifurcation which may represent transition into a pathological state such as hair miniaturization.