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Phys Rev Lett. 2003 Feb 28;90(8):088102. Epub 2003 Feb 26.

Zipf's law in gene expression.

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Center for Developmental Biology, The Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (RIKEN), Kobe 650-0047, Japan.


Using data from gene expression databases on various organisms and tissues, including yeast, nematodes, human normal and cancer tissues, and embryonic stem cells, we found that the abundances of expressed genes exhibit a power-law distribution with an exponent close to -1; i.e., they obey Zipf's law. Furthermore, by simulations of a simple model with an intracellular reaction network, we found that Zipf's law of chemical abundance is a universal feature of cells where such a network optimizes the efficiency and faithfulness of self-reproduction. These findings provide novel insights into the nature of the organization of reaction dynamics in living cells.

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