Computational modeling of a metabolic pathway in ceramide de novo synthesis
Quo, Chang Feng
Merrill, Alfred H.
Wang, May D.
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Studies have implicated ceramide as a key molecular agent in regulating programmed cell death, or apoptosis. Consequently, there is significant potential in targeting intracellular ceramide as a cancer therapeutic agent. The cell’s major ceramide source is the ceramide de novo synthesis pathway, which consists of a complex network of interdependent enzyme-catalyzed biochemical reactions. To understand how ceramide works, we have initiated the study of the ceramide de novo synthesis pathway using computational modeling based on fundamental principles of biochemical kinetics. Specifically, we designed and developed the model in MATLAB SIMULINK for the behavior of dihydroceramide desaturase. Dihydroceramide desaturase is one of three key enzymes in the ceramide de novo synthesis pathway, and it converts a relatively inert precursor molecule, dihydroceramide into biochemically reactive ceramide. A major issue in modeling is parameter estimation. We solved this problem by adopting a heuristic strategy based on a priori knowledge from literature and experimental data. We evaluated model accuracy by comparing the model prediction results with interpolated experimental data. Our future work includes more experimental validation of the model, dynamic rate constants assessment, and expansion of the model to include additional enzymes in the ceramide de novo synthesis pathway.