Automated estimation of rare event probabilities in biochemical systems


In biochemical systems, the occurrence of a rare event can be accompanied by catastrophic consequences. Precise characterization of these events using Monte Carlo simulation methods is often intractable, as the number of realizations needed to witness even a single rare event can be very large. The weighted stochastic simulation algorithm (wSSA) [J. Chem. Phys. 129, 165101 (2008)] and its subsequent extension [J. Chem. Phys. 130, 174103 (2009)] alleviate this difficulty with importance sampling, which effectively biases the system toward the desired rare event. However, extensive computation coupled with substantial insight into a given system is required, as there is currently no automatic approach for choosing wSSA parameters. We present a novel modification of the wSSA-the doubly weighted SSA (dwSSA)-that makes possible a fully automated parameter selection method. Our approach uses the information-theoretic concept of cross entropy to identify parameter values yielding minimum variance rare event probability estimates. We apply the method to four examples: a pure birth process, a birth-death process, an enzymatic futile cycle, and a yeast polarization model. Our results demonstrate that the proposed method (1) enables probability estimation for a class of rare events that cannot be interrogated with the wSSA, and (2) for all examples tested, reduces the number of runs needed to achieve comparable accuracy by multiple orders of magnitude. For a particular rare event in the yeast polarization model, our method transforms a projected simulation time of 600 years to three hours. Furthermore, by incorporating information-theoretic principles, our approach provides a framework for the development of more sophisticated influencing schemes that should further improve estimation accuracy. © 2011 American Institute of Physics.

Publication Title

Journal of Chemical Physics