ECHO, the executable CHOndrocyte: A computational model to study articular chondrocytes in health and disease

Stefano Schivo, Sakshi Khurana, Kannan Govindaraj, Jetse Scholma, Johan Kerkhofs, Leilei Zhong, Xiaobin Huang, Jaco van de Pol, Rom Langerak, André J. van Wijnen, Liesbet Geris, Marcel Karperien, Janine N. Post

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10 Citations (Scopus)
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Computational modeling can be used to investigate complex signaling networks in biology. However, most modeling tools are not suitable for molecular cell biologists with little background in mathematics. We have built a visual-based modeling tool for the investigation of dynamic networks. Here, we describe the development of computational models of cartilage development and osteoarthritis, in which a panel of relevant signaling pathways are integrated. In silico experiments give insight in the role of each of the pathway components and reveal which perturbations may deregulate the basal healthy state of cells and tissues. We used a previously developed computational modeling tool Analysis of Networks with Interactive Modeling (ANIMO) to generate an activity network integrating 7 signal transduction pathways resulting in a network containing over 50 nodes and 200 interactions. We performed in silico experiments to characterize molecular mechanisms of cell fate decisions. The model was used to mimic biological scenarios during cell differentiation using RNA-sequencing data of a variety of stem cell sources as input. In a case-study, we wet-lab-tested the model-derived hypothesis that expression of DKK1 (Dickkopf-1) and FRZB (Frizzled related protein, WNT antagonists) and GREM1 (gremlin 1, BMP antagonist) prevents IL1β (Interleukin 1 beta)-induced MMP (matrix metalloproteinase) expression, thereby preventing cartilage degeneration, at least in the short term. We found that a combination of DKK1, FRZB and GREM1 may play a role in modulating the effects of IL1β induced inflammation in human primary chondrocytes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number109471
JournalCellular Signalling
Early online date11 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020


  • Cartilage
  • Chondrocyte
  • Interleukin-1beta
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Computational model
  • Hypertrophy
  • ECHO
  • RUNX2
  • SOX9


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