A systems perspective of host-pathogen interactions: predicting disease outcome in tuberculosis

Mol Biosyst. 2010 Mar;6(3):516-30. doi: 10.1039/b912129c. Epub 2009 Dec 14.


The complex web of interactions between the host immune system and the pathogen determines the outcome of any infection. A computational model of this interaction network, which encodes complex interplay among host and bacterial components, forms a useful basis for improving the understanding of pathogenesis, in filling knowledge gaps and consequently to identify strategies to counter the disease. We have built an extensive model of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis host-pathogen interactome, consisting of 75 nodes corresponding to host and pathogen molecules, cells, cellular states or processes. Vaccination effects, clearance efficiencies due to drugs and growth rates have also been encoded in the model. The system is modelled as a Boolean network. Virtual deletion experiments, multiple parameter scans and analysis of the system's response to perturbations, indicate that disabling processes such as phagocytosis and phagolysosome fusion or cytokines such as TNF-alpha and IFN-gamma, greatly impaired bacterial clearance, while removing cytokines such as IL-10 alongside bacterial defence proteins such as SapM greatly favour clearance. Simulations indicate a high propensity of the pathogen to persist under different conditions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Computer Simulation
  • Cytokines / genetics
  • Gene Knockout Techniques
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions / genetics
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions / immunology
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Immune System Phenomena
  • Models, Biological
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / genetics
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / immunology
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Systems Biology / methods*
  • Tuberculosis / immunology
  • Tuberculosis / metabolism
  • Tuberculosis / microbiology*
  • Virulence Factors


  • Cytokines
  • Virulence Factors