Methodology article

Systems and Synthetic Biology

, Volume 1, Issue 4, pp 197-205

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Systems biology via redescription and ontologies (I): finding phase changes with applications to malaria temporal data

  • Samantha KleinbergAffiliated withCourant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, New York University Email author 
  • , Kevin CaseyAffiliated withCourant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, New York University
  • , Bud MishraAffiliated withCourant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, New York UniversityNew York University School of Medicine


Biological systems are complex and often composed of many subtly interacting components. Furthermore, such systems evolve through time and, as the underlying biology executes its genetic program, the relationships between components change and undergo dynamic reorganization. Characterizing these relationships precisely is a challenging task, but one that must be undertaken if we are to understand these systems in sufficient detail. One set of tools that may prove useful are the formal principles of model building and checking, which could allow the biologist to frame these inherently temporal questions in a sufficiently rigorous framework. In response to these challenges, GOALIE (Gene ontology algorithmic logic and information extractor) was developed and has been successfully employed in the analysis of high throughput biological data (e.g. time-course gene-expression microarray data and neural spike train recordings). The method has applications to a wide variety of temporal data, indeed any data for which there exist ontological descriptions. This paper describes the algorithms behind GOALIE and its use in the study of the Intraerythrocytic Developmental Cycle (IDC) of Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite responsible for a deadly form of chloroquine resistant malaria. We focus in particular on the problem of finding phase changes, times of reorganization of transcriptional control.


Information theory Microarray data Model checking Ontology Redescription Timecourse data