Risk factor-dependent dynamics of atopic dermatitis: Modelling multi-scale regulation of epithelium homeostasis


Epithelial tissue provides the body with its first layer of protection against harmful environmental stimuli by enacting the regulatory interplay between a physical barrier preventing the influx of external stimuli and an inflammatory response to the infiltrating stimuli. Importantly, this interdependent regulation occurs on different time scales: the tissue-level barrier permeability is regulated over the course of hours, whereas the cellular-level enzymatic reactions leading to inflammation take place within minutes. This multi-scale regulation is key to the epithelium’s function and its dysfunction leads to various diseases. This paper presents a mathematical model of regulatory mechanisms in the epidermal epithelium that includes processes on two different time scales at the cellular and tissue levels. We use this model to investigate the essential regulatory interactions between epidermal barrier integrity and skin inflammation and how their dysfunction leads to atopic dermatitis (AD). Our model exhibits a structure of dual (positive and negative) control at both cellular and tissue levels. We also determined how the variation induced by well-known risk factors for AD can break the balance of the dual control. Our model analysis based on time-scale separation suggests that each risk factor leads to qualitatively different dynamic behaviours of different severity for AD, and that the coincidence of multiple risk factors dramatically increases the fragility of the epithelium’s function. The proposed mathematical framework should also be applicable to other inflammatory diseases that have similar time-scale separation and control architectures.

Interface Focus, vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 20120090, Apr. 2013
Reiko Tanaka
Reiko Tanaka
Reader in Computational Systems Biology & Medicine