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Robustness Can Evolve Gradually in Complex Regulatory Gene Networks with Varying Topology

Abstract : The topology of cellular circuits (the who-interacts-with-whom) is key to understand their robustness to both mutations and noise. The reason is that many biochemical parameters driving circuit behavior vary extensively and are thus not fine-tuned. Existing work in this area asks to what extent the function of any one given circuit is robust. But is high robustness truly remarkable, or would it be expected for many circuits of similar topology? And how can high robustness come about through gradual Darwinian evolution that changes circuit topology gradually, one interaction at a time? We here ask these questions for a model of transcriptional regulation networks, in which we explore millions of different network topologies. Robustness to mutations and noise are correlated in these networks. They show a skewed distribution, with a very small number of networks being vastly more robust than the rest. All networks that attain a given gene expression state can be organized into a graph whose nodes are networks that differ in their topology. Remarkably, this graph is connected and can be easily traversed by gradual changes of network topologies. Thus, robustness is an evolvable property. This connectedness and evolvability of robust networks may be a general organizational principle of biological networks. In addition, it exists also for RNA and protein structures, and may thus be a general organizational principle of all biological systems.
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https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-00143879
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S. Ciliberti, O. Martin, A. Wagner. Robustness Can Evolve Gradually in Complex Regulatory Gene Networks with Varying Topology. PLoS Computational Biology, 2007, 3 (2) (2), pp.e15. ⟨10.1371/journal.pcbi.0030015⟩. ⟨hal-00143879⟩

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