A mathematical framework for functional mapping of complex phenotypes using delay differential equations

Guifang Fu, Zhong Wang, Jiahan Li, Rongling Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


All biological phenomena occurring at different levels of organization from cells to organisms can be modeled as a dynamic system, in which the underlying components interact dynamically to comprehend its biological function. Such a systems modeling approach facilitates the use of biochemically and biophysically detailed mathematical models to describe and quantify "living cells," leading to an in-depth and precise understanding of the behavior, development and function of a biological system. Here, we illustrate how this approach can be used to map genes or quantitative trait loci (QTLs) that control a complex trait using the example of the circadian rhythm system which has been at the forefront of analytical mathematical modeling for many years. We integrate a system of biologically meaningful delay differential equations (DDEs) into functional mapping, a statistical model designed to map dynamic QTLs involved in biological processes. The DDEs model the ability of circadian rhythm to generate autonomously sustained oscillations with a period close to 24. h, in terms of time-varying mRNA and protein abundances. By incorporating the Runge-Kutta fourth order algorithm within the likelihood-based context of functional mapping, we estimated the genetic parameters that define the periodic pattern of QTL effects on time-varying mRNA and protein abundances and their dynamic association as well as the linkage disequilibrium of the QTL and a marker. We prove theorems about how to choose appropriate parameters to guarantee periodic oscillations. We further used simulation studies to investigate how a QTL influences the period and the amplitude of circadian oscillations through changing model parameters. The model provides a quantitative framework for assessing the interplay between genetic effects of QTLs and rhythmic responses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)206-216
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 21 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • Applied Mathematics


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