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J Theor Biol. 1999 Apr 7;197(3):281-94.

Population and quantitative genetics of regulatory networks.

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  • 1Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Irvine, CA 92697-2525,


I evolved boolean regulatory networks in a computer simulation. I varied mutation, recombination, the size of the network, and the number of connections per node. I measured the performance of networks and the heritability and epistasis of genetic effects. Networks of intermediate connectivity performed best. The distinction between metabolic and quantitative genetic additivity explained some of the variation in performance. Metabolic additivity describes the interaction between changes in a single network, whereas quantitative genetic additivity measures the consistency of phenotypic effect caused by gene substitution in randomly chosen members of the population. I analysed metabolic additivity by the distribution of epistatic effects of pairs of mutations in individual networks. I measured quantitative genetic additivity by heritability. Highly connected networks had greater metabolic additivity for perturbations to individual networks, but had lower additivity when measured by the average effect of a gene substitution (heritability). The lower heritability of highly connected nets appeared to reduce the effectiveness of recombination in searching evolutionary space.

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