Immune Networks Modeled by Replicator Equations

Peter F. Stadler, Peter Schuster, and Alan S. Perelson

In order to evaluate the role of idiotypic networks in the operation of the immune system a number of mathematical models have been formulated. Here we examine a class of B-cell models in which cell proliferation is governed by a non-negative, unimodal, symmetric response function f(h), where the field h summarizes the effect of the network on a single clone. We show that by transforming into relative concentrations, the B-cell network equations can be brought into a form that closely resembles the replicator equation. We then show that when the total number of clones in a network is conserved, the dynamics of the network can be represented by the dynamics of a replicator equation. The number of equilibria and their stability are then characterized using methods developed for the study of second-order replicator equations. Analogies with standard Lotka-Volterra equations are also indicated. A particularly interesting result of our analysis is the fact that even though the immune network equations are not second-order, the number and stability of their equilibria can be obtained by a superposition of second-order replicator systems. As a consequence, the problem of finding all of the equilibrium points of the nonlinear network equations can be reduced to solving linear equations.

keywords: B-cells - immune system - mutation - replicator equations

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