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  1. Reliable prediction of T cell specificity against antigenic signatures is a formidable task, complicated by the immense diversity of T cell receptor and antigen sequence space and the resulting limited availability of training sets for inferential models. Recent modeling efforts have demonstrated the advantage of incorporating structural information to overcome the need for extensive training sequence data, yet disentangling the heterogeneous TCR-antigen interface to accurately predict MHC-allele-restricted TCR-peptide interactions has remained challenging. Here, we present RACER-m, a coarse-grained structural model leveraging key biophysical information from the diversity of publicly available TCR-antigen crystal structures. Explicit inclusion of structural content substantially reduces the required number of training examples and maintains reliable predictions of TCR-recognition specificity and sensitivity across diverse biological contexts. Our model capably identifies biophysically meaningful point-mutant peptides that affect binding affinity, distinguishing its ability in predicting TCR specificity of point-mutants from alternative sequence-based methods. Its application is broadly applicable to studies involving both closely related and structurally diverse TCR-peptide pairs.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 17, 2025
  2. In this work, we construct an Active Finite Voronoi (AFV) model and comprehensively map out the different emergent phases. Interestingly, the model exhibits a rich set of epithelial and mesenchymal morphological and dynamical phases. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 13, 2024
  3. Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is a developmental program that consists of the loss of epithelial features concomitant with the acquisition of mesenchymal features. Activation of EMT in cancer facilitates the acquisition of aggressive traits and cancer invasion. EMT plasticity (EMP), the dynamic transition between multiple hybrid states in which cancer cells display both epithelial and mesenchymal markers, confers survival advantages for cancer cells in constantly changing environments during metastasis. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2025
  4. At low dose Jagged acts synergistically with Delta to enable more robust lateral induction pattern formation. It also helps to suppress the possibility of obtaining an antihexagon pattern and increases the order in the patterns.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 5, 2024
  5. Abstract

    Tumors develop in a complex physical, biochemical, and cellular milieu, referred to as the tumor microenvironment. Of special interest is the set of immune cells that reciprocally interact with the tumor, the tumor-immune microenvironment (TIME). The diversity of cell types and cell–cell interactions in the TIME has led researchers to apply concepts from ecology to describe the dynamics. However, while tumor cells are known to induce immune cells to switch from anti-tumor to pro-tumor phenotypes, this type of ecological interaction has been largely overlooked. To address this gap in cancer modeling, we develop a minimal, ecological model of the TIME with immune cell conversion, to highlight this important interaction and explore its consequences. A key finding is that immune conversion increases the range of parameters supporting a co-existence phase in which the immune system and the tumor reach a stalemate. Our results suggest that further investigation of the consequences of immune cell conversion, using detailed, data-driven models, will be critical for greater understanding of TIME dynamics.

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  6. We offer our opinion on the benefits of integration of insights from active matter physics with principles of regulatory interactions and control to develop a field we term “smart active matter”. This field can provide insight into important principles in living systems as well as aid engineering of responsive, robust and functional collectives. 
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  7. The failure of cancer treatments, including immunotherapy, continues to be a major obstacle in preventing durable remission. This failure often results from tumor evolution, both genotypic and phenotypic, away from sensitive cell states. Here, we propose a mathematical framework for studying the dynamics of adaptive immune evasion that tracks the number of tumor-associated antigens available for immune targeting. We solve for the unique optimal cancer evasion strategy using stochastic dynamic programming and demonstrate that this policy results in increased cancer evasion rates compared to a passive, fixed strategy. Our foundational model relates the likelihood and temporal dynamics of cancer evasion to features of the immune microenvironment, where tumor immunogenicity reflects a balance between cancer adaptation and host recognition. In contrast with a passive strategy, optimally adaptive evaders navigating varying selective environments result in substantially heterogeneous post-escape tumor antigenicity, giving rise to immunogenically hot and cold tumors. 
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  8. Abstract

    Recent years have seen a tremendous growth of interest in understanding the role that the adaptive immune system could play in interdicting tumor progression. In this context, it has been shown that the density of adaptive immune cells inside a solid tumor serves as a favorable prognostic marker across different types of cancer. The exact mechanisms underlying the degree of immune cell infiltration is largely unknown. Here, we quantify the temporal dynamics of the density profile of activated immune cells around a solid tumor spheroid. We propose a computational model incorporating immune cells with active, persistent movement and a proliferation rate that depends on the presence of cancer cells, and show that the model able to reproduce semi-quantitatively the experimentally measured infiltration profile. Studying the density distribution of immune cells inside a solid tumor can help us better understand immune trafficking in the tumor micro-environment, hopefully leading towards novel immunotherapeutic strategies.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 3, 2024
  9. Regulatory networks as large and complex as those implicated in cell-fate choice are expected to exhibit intricate, very high-dimensional dynamics. Cell-fate choice, however, is a macroscopically simple process. Additionally, regulatory network models are almost always incomplete and/or inexact, and do not incorporate all the regulators and interactions that may be involved in cell-fate regulation. In spite of these issues, regulatory network models have proven to be incredibly effective tools for understanding cell-fate choice across contexts and for making useful predictions. Here, we show that minimal frustration—a feature of biological networks across contexts but not of random networks—can compel simple, low-dimensional steady-state behavior even in large and complex networks. Moreover, the steady-state behavior of minimally frustrated networks can be recapitulated by simpler networks such as those lacking many of the nodes and edges and those that treat multiple regulators as one. The present study provides a theoretical explanation for the success of network models in biology and for the challenges in network inference. 
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