A framework for whole-cell mathematical modeling. Academic Article uri icon


  • The default framework for modeling biochemical processes is that of a constant-volume reactor operating under steady-state conditions. This is satisfactory for many applications, but not for modeling growth and division of cells. In this study, a whole-cell modeling framework is developed that assumes expanding volumes and a cell-division cycle. A spherical newborn cell is designed to grow in volume during the growth phase of the cycle. After 80% of the cycle period, the cell begins to divide by constricting about its equator, ultimately affording two spherical cells with total volume equal to twice that of the original. The cell is partitioned into two regions or volumes, namely the cytoplasm (Vcyt) and membrane (Vmem), with molecular components present in each. Both volumes change during the cell cycle; Vcyt changes in response to osmotic pressure changes as nutrients enter the cell from the environment, while Vmem changes in response to this osmotic pressure effect such that membrane thickness remains invariant. The two volumes change at different rates; in most cases, this imposes periodic or oscillatory behavior on all components within the cell. Since the framework itself rather than a particular set of reactions and components is responsible for this behavior, it should be possible to model various biochemical processes within it, affording stable periodic solutions without requiring that the biochemical process itself generates oscillations as an inherent feature. Given that these processes naturally occur in growing and dividing cells, it is reasonable to conclude that the dynamics of component concentrations will be more realistic than when modeled within constant-volume and/or steady-state frameworks. This approach is illustrated using a symbolic whole cell model.

published proceedings

  • J Theor Biol

author list (cited authors)

  • Morgan, J. J., Surovtsev, I. V., & Lindahl, P. A.

citation count

  • 19

complete list of authors

  • Morgan, Jeffrey J||Surovtsev, Ivan V||Lindahl, Paul A

publication date

  • January 2004