Predicting Essential Components of Signal Transduction Networks: A Dynamic Model of Guard Cell Abscisic Acid Signaling
Plants both lose water and take in carbon dioxide through microscopic stomatal pores, each of which is regulated by a surrounding pair of guard cells. During drought, the plant hormone abscisic acid (ABA) inhibits stomatal opening and promotes stomatal closure, thereby promoting water conservation. Dozens of cellular components have been identified to function in ABA regulation of guard cell volume and thus of stomatal aperture, but a dynamic description is still not available for this complex process. Here we synthesize experimental results into a consistent guard cell signal transduction network for ABA-induced stomatal closure, and develop a dynamic model of this process. Our model captures the regulation of more than 40 identified network components, and accords well with previous experimental results at both the pathway and whole-cell physiological level. By simulating gene disruptions and pharmacological interventions we find that the network is robust against a significant fraction of possible perturbations. Our analysis reveals the novel predictions that the disruption of membrane depolarizability, anion efflux, actin cytoskeleton reorganization, cytosolic pH increase, the phosphatidic acid pathway, or K+ efflux through slowly activating K+ channels at the plasma membrane lead to the strongest reduction in ABA responsiveness. Initial experimental analysis assessing ABA-induced stomatal closure in the presence of cytosolic pH clamp imposed by the weak acid butyrate is consistent with model prediction. Simulations of stomatal response as derived from our model provide an efficient tool for the identification of candidate manipulations that have the best chance of conferring increased drought stress tolerance and for the prioritization of future wet bench analyses. Our method can be readily applied to other biological signaling networks to identify key regulatory components in systems where quantitative information is limited.