Many pathogens are able to manipulate the signaling pathways responsible for the generation of host immune responses. Here we examine and model a respiratory infection system in which disruption of host immune functions or of bacterial factors changes the dynamics of the infection. We synthesize the network of interactions between host immune components and two closely related bacteria in the genus Bordetellae. We incorporate existing experimental information on the timing of immune regulatory events into a discrete dynamic model, and verify the model by comparing the effects of simulated disruptions to the experimental outcome of knockout mutations. Our model indicates that the infection time course of both Bordetellae can be separated into three distinct phases based on the most active immune processes. We compare and discuss the effect of the species-specific virulence factors on disrupting the immune response during their infection of naive, antibody-treated, diseased, or convalescent hosts. Our model offers predictions regarding cytokine regulation, key immune components, and clearance of secondary infections; we experimentally validate two of these predictions. This type of modeling provides new insights into the virulence, pathogenesis, and host adaptation of disease-causing microorganisms and allows systems-level analysis that is not always possible using traditional methods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1022-1039
Number of pages18
JournalPLoS computational biology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Ecology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics


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