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  1. 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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  2. The emergence of and transitions between distinct phenotypes in isogenic cells can be attributed to the intricate interplay of epigenetic marks, external signals, and gene-regulatory elements. These elements include chromatin remodelers, histone modifiers, transcription factors, and regulatory RNAs. Mathematical models known as gene-regulatory networks (GRNs) are an increasingly important tool to unravel the workings of such complex networks. In such models, epigenetic factors are usually proposed to act on the chromatin regions directly involved in the expression of relevant genes. However, it has been well-established that these factors operate globally and compete with each other for targets genome-wide. Therefore, a perturbation of the activity of a regulator can redistribute epigenetic marks across the genome and modulate the levels of competing regulators. In this paper, we propose a conceptual and mathematical modeling framework that incorporates both local and global competition effects between antagonistic epigenetic regulators, in addition to local transcription factors, and show the counterintuitive consequences of such interactions. We apply our approach to recent experimental findings on the epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT). We show that it can explain the puzzling experimental data, as well as provide verifiable predictions. 
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  3. Kemp, Melissa L. (Ed.)
    While aerobic glycolysis, or the Warburg effect, has for a long time been considered a hallmark of tumor metabolism, recent studies have revealed a far more complex picture. Tumor cells exhibit widespread metabolic heterogeneity, not only in their presentation of the Warburg effect but also in the nutrients and the metabolic pathways they are dependent on. Moreover, tumor cells can switch between different metabolic phenotypes in response to environmental cues and therapeutic interventions. A framework to analyze the observed metabolic heterogeneity and plasticity is, however, lacking. Using a mechanistic model that includes the key metabolic pathways active in tumor cells, we show that the inhibition of phosphofructokinase by excess ATP in the cytoplasm can drive a preference for aerobic glycolysis in fast-proliferating tumor cells. The differing rates of ATP utilization by tumor cells can therefore drive heterogeneity with respect to the presentation of the Warburg effect. Building upon this idea, we couple the metabolic phenotype of tumor cells to their migratory phenotype, and show that our model predictions are in agreement with previous experiments. Next, we report that the reliance of proliferating cells on different anaplerotic pathways depends on the relative availability of glucose and glutamine, and can further drive metabolic heterogeneity. Finally, using treatment of melanoma cells with a BRAF inhibitor as an example, we show that our model can be used to predict the metabolic and gene expression changes in cancer cells in response to drug treatment. By making predictions that are far more generalizable and interpretable as compared to previous tumor metabolism modeling approaches, our framework identifies key principles that govern tumor cell metabolism, and the reported heterogeneity and plasticity. These principles could be key to targeting the metabolic vulnerabilities of cancer. 
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  4. Abstract Antarctica is one of the most vulnerable regions to climate change on Earth and studying the past and present responses of this polar marine ecosystem to environmental change is a matter of urgency. Sedimentary ancient DNA ( sed aDNA) analysis can provide such insights into past ecosystem-wide changes. Here we present authenticated (through extensive contamination control and sed aDNA damage analysis) metagenomic marine eukaryote sed aDNA from the Scotia Sea region acquired during IODP Expedition 382. We also provide a marine eukaryote sed aDNA record of ~1 Mio. years and diatom and chlorophyte sed aDNA dating back to ~540 ka (using taxonomic marker genes SSU, LSU, psbO ). We find evidence of warm phases being associated with high relative diatom abundance, and a marked transition from diatoms comprising <10% of all eukaryotes prior to ~14.5 ka, to ~50% after this time, i.e., following Meltwater Pulse 1A, alongside a composition change from sea-ice to open-ocean species. Our study demonstrates that sed aDNA tools can be expanded to hundreds of thousands of years, opening the pathway to the study of ecosystem-wide marine shifts and paleo-productivity phases throughout multiple glacial-interglacial cycles. 
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  5. null (Ed.)
  6. Abstract The Southern Ocean paleoceanography provides key insights into how iron fertilization and oceanic productivity developed through Pleistocene ice-ages and their role in influencing the carbon cycle. We report a high-resolution record of dust deposition and ocean productivity for the Antarctic Zone, close to the main dust source, Patagonia. Our deep-ocean records cover the last 1.5 Ma, thus doubling that from Antarctic ice-cores. We find a 5 to 15-fold increase in dust deposition during glacials and a 2 to 5-fold increase in biogenic silica deposition, reflecting higher ocean productivity during interglacials. This antiphasing persisted throughout the last 25 glacial cycles. Dust deposition became more pronounced across the Mid-Pleistocene Transition (MPT) in the Southern Hemisphere, with an abrupt shift suggesting more severe glaciations since ~0.9 Ma. Productivity was intermediate pre-MPT, lowest during the MPT and highest since 0.4 Ma. Generally, glacials experienced extended sea-ice cover, reduced bottom-water export and Weddell Gyre dynamics, which helped lower atmospheric CO 2 levels. 
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  7. null (Ed.)
    The epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT) is a process by which cells lose epithelial traits, such as cell–cell adhesion and apico-basal polarity, and acquire migratory and invasive traits. EMT is crucial to embryonic development and wound healing. Misregulated EMT has been implicated in processes associated with cancer aggressiveness, including metastasis. Recent experimental advances such as single-cell analysis and temporal phenotypic characterization have established that EMT is a multistable process wherein cells exhibit and switch among multiple phenotypic states. This is in contrast to the classical perception of EMT as leading to a binary choice. Mathematical modeling has been at the forefront of this transformation for the field, not only providing a conceptual framework to integrate and analyze experimental data, but also making testable predictions. In this article, we review the key features and characteristics of EMT dynamics, with a focus on the mathematical modeling approaches that have been instrumental to obtaining various useful insights. 
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  10. Onufriev, Alexey (Ed.)