PeTTSy: a computational tool for perturbation analysis of complex systems biology models

BMC Bioinformatics. 2016 Mar 10:17:124. doi: 10.1186/s12859-016-0972-2.


Background: Over the last decade sensitivity analysis techniques have been shown to be very useful to analyse complex and high dimensional Systems Biology models. However, many of the currently available toolboxes have either used parameter sampling, been focused on a restricted set of model observables of interest, studied optimisation of a objective function, or have not dealt with multiple simultaneous model parameter changes where the changes can be permanent or temporary.

Results: Here we introduce our new, freely downloadable toolbox, PeTTSy (Perturbation Theory Toolbox for Systems). PeTTSy is a package for MATLAB which implements a wide array of techniques for the perturbation theory and sensitivity analysis of large and complex ordinary differential equation (ODE) based models. PeTTSy is a comprehensive modelling framework that introduces a number of new approaches and that fully addresses analysis of oscillatory systems. It examines sensitivity analysis of the models to perturbations of parameters, where the perturbation timing, strength, length and overall shape can be controlled by the user. This can be done in a system-global setting, namely, the user can determine how many parameters to perturb, by how much and for how long. PeTTSy also offers the user the ability to explore the effect of the parameter perturbations on many different types of outputs: period, phase (timing of peak) and model solutions. PeTTSy can be employed on a wide range of mathematical models including free-running and forced oscillators and signalling systems. To enable experimental optimisation using the Fisher Information Matrix it efficiently allows one to combine multiple variants of a model (i.e. a model with multiple experimental conditions) in order to determine the value of new experiments. It is especially useful in the analysis of large and complex models involving many variables and parameters.

Conclusions: PeTTSy is a comprehensive tool for analysing large and complex models of regulatory and signalling systems. It allows for simulation and analysis of models under a variety of environmental conditions and for experimental optimisation of complex combined experiments. With its unique set of tools it makes a valuable addition to the current library of sensitivity analysis toolboxes. We believe that this software will be of great use to the wider biological, systems biology and modelling communities.

Keywords: Dynamical systems; Gene regulatory networks; Mathematical models; Perturbation theory; Signalling systems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Models, Biological*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Software*
  • Systems Biology / methods*