Networks of ribosome flow models for modeling and analyzing intracellular traffic

Itzik Nanikashvili, Yoram Zarai, Alexander Ovseevich, Tamir Tuller*, Michael Margaliot

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The ribosome flow model with input and output (RFMIO) is a deterministic dynamical system that has been used to study the flow of ribosomes during mRNA translation. The input of the RFMIO controls its initiation rate and the output represents the ribosome exit rate (and thus the protein production rate) at the 3′ end of the mRNA molecule. The RFMIO and its variants encapsulate important properties that are relevant to modeling ribosome flow such as the possible evolution of “traffic jams” and non-homogeneous elongation rates along the mRNA molecule, and can also be used for studying additional intracellular processes such as transcription, transport, and more. Here we consider networks of interconnected RFMIOs as a fundamental tool for modeling, analyzing and re-engineering the complex mechanisms of protein production. In these networks, the output of each RFMIO may be divided, using connection weights, between several inputs of other RFMIOs. We show that under quite general feedback connections the network has two important properties: (1) it admits a unique steady-state and every trajectory converges to this steady-state; and (2) the problem of how to determine the connection weights so that the network steady-state output is maximized is a convex optimization problem. These mathematical properties make these networks highly suitable as models of various phenomena: property (1) means that the behavior is predictable and ordered, and property (2) means that determining the optimal weights is numerically tractable even for large-scale networks. For the specific case of a feed-forward network of RFMIOs we prove an additional useful property, namely, that there exists a spectral representation for the network steady-state, and thus it can be determined without any numerical simulations of the dynamics. We describe the implications of these results to several fundamental biological phenomena and biotechnological objectives.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1703
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2019


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