Modeling signaling-dependent pluripotency with Boolean logic to predict cell fate transitions

Ayako Yachie-Kinoshita, Kento Onishi, Joel Ostblom, Matthew A. Langley, Eszter Posfai, Janet Rossant, Peter W. Zandstra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) exist in multiple stable states, each with specific cellular properties and molecular signatures. The mechanisms that maintain pluripotency, or that cause its destabilization to initiate development, are complex and incompletely understood. We have developed a model to predict stabilized PSC gene regulatory network (GRN) states in response to input signals. Our strategy used random asynchronous Boolean simulations (R-ABS) to simulate single-cell fate transitions and strongly connected components (SCCs) strategy to represent population heterogeneity. This framework was applied to a reverse-engineered and curated core GRN for mouse embryonic stem cells (mESCs) and used to simulate cellular responses to combinations of five signaling pathways. Our simulations predicted experimentally verified cell population compositions and input signal combinations controlling specific cell fate transitions. Extending the model to PSC differentiation, we predicted a combination of signaling activators and inhibitors that efficiently and robustly generated a Cdx2+Oct4 cells from naïve mESCs. Overall, this platform provides new strategies to simulate cell fate transitions and the heterogeneity that typically occurs during development and differentiation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere7952
JournalMolecular Systems Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2018
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • Applied Mathematics
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


  • asynchronous Boolean simulation
  • embryonic stem cell
  • gene regulatory network
  • heterogeneity
  • pluripotency


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