Predictable irreversible switching between acute and chronic inflammation

Abulikemu Abudukelimu, Matteo Barberis, Frank A. Redegeld, Nilgun Sahin, Hans V. Westerhoff*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Many a disease associates with inflammation. Upon binding of antigen-antibody complexes to immunoglobulin-like receptors, mast cells release tumor necrosis factor-α and proteases, causing fibroblasts to release endogenous antigens that may be cross reactive with exogenous antigens. We made a predictive dynamic map of the corresponding extracellular network. In silico, this map cleared bacterial infections, via acute inflammation, but could also cause chronic inflammation. In the calculations, limited inflammation flipped to strong inflammation when cross-reacting antigen exceeded an "On threshold." Subsequent reduction of the antigen load to below this "On threshold" did not remove the strong inflammation phenotype unless the antigen load dropped below a much lower and subtler "Off" threshold. In between both thresholds, the network appeared caught either in a "low" or a "high" inflammatory state. This was not simply a matter of bi-stability, however, the transition to the "high" state was temporarily revertible but ultimately irreversible: removing antigen after high exposure reduced the inflammatory phenotype back to "low" levels but if then the antigen dosage was increased only a little, the high inflammation state was already re-attained. This property may explain why the high inflammation state is indeed "chronic," whereas only the naive low-inflammation state is "acute." The model demonstrates that therapies of chronic inflammation such as with anti-IgLC should require fibroblast implantation (or corresponding stem cell activation) for permanence in order to redress the irreversible transition.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1596
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalFrontiers in Immunology
Issue numberAUGUST
Publication statusPublished - 7 Aug 2018


  • Bi-stability
  • Cross-reacting antigen
  • Inflammation
  • Innate immunity
  • Irreversible transition
  • Modeling


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