Assessing cytokines' talking patterns following experimental myocardial damage by applying Shannon's information theory

Michele M. Ciulla, Federico De Marco, Elisa Montelatici, Lorenza Lazzari, Gianluca L. Perrucci, Fabio Magrini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The simultaneous measurement of multiple cytokines in parallel by using multiplex proteome arrays (MPA) is of great interest to understanding the inflammatory response following myocardial infarction; however, since cytokines are pleiotropic and redundant, increase of information throughput (IT) attained by measuring multiple cytokines remain to be determined. We aimed this study to assess the IT of an MPA system designed to assess 8 cytokines - commercially available at the time of the study - serum levels, before (control state) and after experimental myocardial cryoinjury (activated state) in rats. Methods: By assuming that redundant information do not generally increase the IT, we derived Entropy (H) and Redundancy (R) of information by using formulas of Shannon modified accordingly, where a high IT (high H and low R) corresponds to a low level of correlation between cytokines and vice versa for a low IT. The maximum theoretical level of IT and the contribution of each cytokine were also estimated. Results: In control state, no significant correlations were found between cytokines showing high IT; on the contrary, in activated state, several significant correlations were found supporting a complex cross-talk pattern between cytokines with low IT. Using as reference the maximum theoretical level of IT, in activated state, H was reduced of 67.0% and R was increased of 77.4% supporting a reduction of IT. Furthermore, the contribution of individual cytokines to H value of MPA was variable: in control state, IL-2 gave the most contribution to H value, conversely during activated state IL-10 gave most contribution. Finally during activated state, IL-1β was the only cytokine strongly correlated with values of all other cytokines, suggesting a crucial role in the inflammatory cascade. Conclusions: Paradoxically, by analyzing an MPA system designed for redundant analytes such as cytokines, translating the Shannon's information theory from the field of communication to biology, the IT system in our model deteriorates during the activation state by increasing its redundancy, showing maximum value of entropy in the control conditions. Finally, the study of the mutual interdependence between cytokines by the contribution to the IT may allow formulating alternative models to describe the inflammatory cascade after myocardial infarction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-31
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
Publication statusPublished - Feb 21 2014


  • Cryoinjury
  • Cytokines cross talk
  • Entropy
  • Redundancy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Modelling and Simulation
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Medicine(all)
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Statistics and Probability


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