Long-term dynamics of multisite phosphorylation.
Multisite phosphorylation cycles are ubiquitous in cell regulation systems and are studied at multiple levels of complexity, from molecules to organisms, with the ultimate goal of establishing predictive understanding of the effects of genetic and pharmacological perturbations of protein phosphorylation in vivo. Achieving this goal is essentially impossible without mathematical models, which provide a systematic framework for exploring dynamic interactions of multiple network components. Most of the models studied to date do not discriminate between the distinct partially phosphorylated forms and focus on two limiting reaction regimes, distributive and processive, which differ in the number of enzyme-substrate binding events needed for complete phosphorylation or dephosphorylation. Here we use a minimal model of extracellular signal-related kinase regulation to explore the dynamics of a reaction network that includes all essential phosphorylation forms and arbitrary levels of reaction processivity. In addition to bistability, which has been studied extensively in distributive mechanisms, this network can generate periodic oscillations. Both bistability and oscillations can be realized at high levels of reaction processivity. Our work provides a general framework for systematic analysis of dynamics in multisite phosphorylation systems.