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Nat Genet. 2002 May;31(1):60-3. Epub 2002 Apr 22.

Topological and causal structure of the yeast transcriptional regulatory network.

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ATelier de Génomique Cognitive, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique ESA 8071, genopole(R), 523 Terrasses de l'Agora, 91000 Evry, France.


Interpretation of high-throughput biological data requires a knowledge of the design principles underlying the networks that sustain cellular functions. Of particular importance is the genetic network, a set of genes that interact through directed transcriptional regulation. Genes that exert a regulatory role encode dedicated transcription factors (hereafter referred to as regulating proteins) that can bind to specific DNA control regions of regulated genes to activate or inhibit their transcription. Regulated genes may themselves act in a regulatory manner, in which case they participate in a causal pathway. Looping pathways form feedback circuits. Because a gene can have several connections, circuits and pathways may crosslink and thus represent connected components. We have created a graph of 909 genetically or biochemically established interactions among 491 yeast genes. The number of regulating proteins per regulated gene has a narrow distribution with an exponential decay. The number of regulated genes per regulating protein has a broader distribution with a decay resembling a power law. Assuming in computer-generated graphs that gene connections fulfill these distributions but are otherwise random, the local clustering of connections and the number of short feedback circuits are largely underestimated. This deviation from randomness probably reflects functional constraints that include biosynthetic cost, response delay and differentiative and homeostatic regulation.

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