Is there "universality" in biological networks?

6 May 2011

Chao Tang
Department of Bioengineering and Therpeutic Sciences
Univeristy of California, San Francisco,
and the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences


A diverse set of biological functions in a diverse set of cells and organisms are performed by a myriad of biochemical networks. A major challenge in systems biology is to seek design principles or general rules that link network function and topology. I will present two case studies in which the network function limits the choice of the network topology to a very small set. One case concerns biochemical adaptation. We show that there are only two core topologies that can achieve perfect adaptation. The other case is parasegment boundary formation in fruit fly development. The network topology for this patterning function has to be one of the few variants of a core topology. A function-topology map would help us comprehend natural biochemical networks, identifying key or missing nodes in the network, and suggesting the network's function. It can also provide us with a manual to synthesize artificial networks.

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