An autonomous mathematical model for the mammalian cell cycle

Katherine S. Williams, Timothy W. Secomb, Ardith W. El-Kareh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A mathematical model for the mammalian cell cycle is developed as a system of 13 coupled nonlinear ordinary differential equations. The variables and interactions included in the model are based on detailed consideration of available experimental data. A novel feature of the model is inclusion of cycle tasks such as origin licensing and initiation, nuclear envelope breakdown and kinetochore attachment, and their interactions with controllers (molecular complexes involved in cycle control). Other key features are that the model is autonomous, except for a dependence on external growth factors; the variables are continuous in time, without instantaneous resets at phase boundaries; mechanisms to prevent rereplication are included; and cycle progression is independent of cell size. Eight variables represent cell cycle controllers: the Cyclin D1-Cdk4/6 complex, APCCdh1, SCFβTrCP, Cdc25A, MPF, NuMA, the securin-separase complex, and separase. Five variables represent task completion, with four for the status of origins and one for kinetochore attachment. The model predicts distinct behaviors corresponding to the main phases of the cell cycle, showing that the principal features of the mammalian cell cycle, including restriction point behavior, can be accounted for in a quantitative mechanistic way based on known interactions among cycle controllers and their coupling to tasks. The model is robust to parameter changes, in that cycling is maintained over at least a five-fold range of each parameter when varied individually. The model is suitable for exploring how extracellular factors affect cell cycle progression, including responses to metabolic conditions and to anti-cancer therapies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number111533
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
StatePublished - Jul 21 2023


  • Cell cycle
  • Cell cycle control
  • DNA replication
  • DNA rereplication
  • Mammalian cells
  • Mathematical model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • Applied Mathematics


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