A Stochastic Model of the Yeast Cell Cycle Reveals Roles for Feedback Regulation in Limiting Cellular Variability

PLoS Comput Biol. 2016 Dec 9;12(12):e1005230. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1005230. eCollection 2016 Dec.


The cell division cycle of eukaryotes is governed by a complex network of cyclin-dependent protein kinases (CDKs) and auxiliary proteins that govern CDK activities. The control system must function reliably in the context of molecular noise that is inevitable in tiny yeast cells, because mistakes in sequencing cell cycle events are detrimental or fatal to the cell or its progeny. To assess the effects of noise on cell cycle progression requires not only extensive, quantitative, experimental measurements of cellular heterogeneity but also comprehensive, accurate, mathematical models of stochastic fluctuations in the CDK control system. In this paper we provide a stochastic model of the budding yeast cell cycle that accurately accounts for the variable phenotypes of wild-type cells and more than 20 mutant yeast strains simulated in different growth conditions. We specifically tested the role of feedback regulations mediated by G1- and SG2M-phase cyclins to minimize the noise in cell cycle progression. Details of the model are informed and tested by quantitative measurements (by fluorescence in situ hybridization) of the joint distributions of mRNA populations in yeast cells. We use the model to predict the phenotypes of ~30 mutant yeast strains that have not yet been characterized experimentally.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Cycle / physiology*
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinases / metabolism
  • Feedback, Physiological / physiology*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Mutation
  • Phenotype
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / cytology*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / physiology*
  • Stochastic Processes


  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinases