Holistic View on the Structure of Immune Response: Petri Net Model
The simulation of immune response is a challenging task because quantitative data are scarce. Quantitative theoretical models either focus on specific cell–cell interactions or have to make assumptions about parameters. The broad variation of, e.g., the dimensions and abundance between lymph nodes as well as between individual patients hampers conclusive quantitative modeling. No theoretical model has been established representing a consensus on the set of major cellular processes involved in the immune response. In this paper, we apply the Petri net formalism to construct a semi-quantitative mathematical model of the lymph nodes. The model covers the major cellular processes of immune response and fulfills the formal requirements of Petri net models. The intention is to develop a model taking into account the viewpoints of experienced pathologists and computer scientists in the field of systems biology. In order to verify formal requirements, we discuss invariant properties and apply the asynchronous firing rule of a place/transition net. Twenty-five transition invariants cover the model, and each is assigned to a functional mode of the immune response. In simulations, the Petri net model describes the dynamic modes of the immune response, its adaption to antigens, and its loss of memory.